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Tony Frates @http://swbiodiversity.org
Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Distichlis spicata - saltgrass

Synonyms: Agropyron peruvianum, Brachypodium peruvianumRoem. Brizopyrum americanum,  Brizopyrum ovatum, more in SEINET.

Other Common Names: desert saltgrass, inland saltgrass, marsh spikegrass, seashore saltgrass

Plant Form:Grass

Family: Poaceae

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Max Licher @http://swbiodiversity.org
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Max Licher @http://swbiodiversity.org
  Grass Description -   Glossary of Grass Terminology

Origin: Native    Season: Cool and Warm
Habitat Description: Found in moist saline soils below 6,000 ft.
Plant Communities: Riparian
Elevation: 1000 - 6000 feet

General Description

Desc: Often forms dense mats and groundcover where it occurs due to high branching, stolons and rhizomes; distinguished by the flattened spikelets with many florets and leaves arranged alternately in two opposite vertical rows.
Identification notes: Unisexual flowers, male and female flowers on separate plants; extensive, tough, thick rhizomes; seedhead stem usually under 12 inches; seedhead of contracted branches; spikelets 5 to 18 or more, flattened, closely overlapping and awnless.
Grass Type: Perennial mat or sod-forming  Rhizomes: Y  Stolons: Y
Large Dense Clump (> 2 feet): N  Bushy (highly branched): N
Height with Seedheads: Less than 12 inches
Seedhead Structure: Branched - contracted  Seedhead Droops: N
Flowering Period: Apr - Sep

Flower Characteristics

Number of Flowers per Spikelet: Multi-flowered  Spikelets One-sided: N
Awns: Absent   Three Awns: N  Awns Bent: N

Flower and Seedhead Notes: Seedhead terminal, branched, 3/4 to 2-3/4 inches long, often crowded with 2 to 20 spikelets. Female floret lacks an awn, male floret is similar to the female floret but with a thinner lemma, a narrower palea and 3 anthers.

Vegetative Characteristics

Blade Hairy: N  Blade with White Margin: N  Blade Cross Section: Flat  
Blade Notes: Leaf blade width to 1/4 inch; scattered, hairy; blades stiff, flattened at base, sharp pointed, coarse, spaced along the entire length of the stem; leaves folded in the bud.
Sheath Hairy: N  Tuft of Hairs Top of Sheath or Collar: Y  Ligules: Membranous and hairy
Auricles (Ear-like lobes at base of blades): N
Vegetative Notes: Sheaths overlap. Collar hairy. Membranous ligules are toothed and less than 1/16 inch long, with a fringe of short hairs.

Forage Value: Saltgrass is of low palatability for livestock and big game. If grazed alone in the fall or winter, saltgrass can cause compaction in cattle.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2020  
Content Questions/Comments: Email Jeff Schalau  
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