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Mr. Smarty Plants - Grasses in Allen County, Indiana

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Saturday - September 25, 2010

From: Monroeville, IN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Grasses in Allen County, Indiana
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Do you have images of Northeast Allen County, Indiana grass specimens with i.d.? I am a student teacher and am putting together a nature hunt list for my students. Thank-you,

ANSWER:

Were you thinking of 'weeding out' your class?  Sorry, I couldn't resist since most people think of grasses as weeds.   Seriously, though, you need to realize how difficult grasses are to identify.  To be successful at identifying nearly all grasses you need for the grass to have the inflorescences or seedheads attached.  I don't know what level you are planning your nature hunt for; but, if the class you are working with isn't at least in the upper elementary grades, I think you might want to think about a different project.  However, to help with your project, we can guide you to a list of grasses that occur in Allen County, Indiana. On the USDA Plants Database choose the 'Advanced Search' option and then under 1. Distribution, choose 'Indiana:Allen' under County Distribution.  Then scroll down under 2. Taxonomy and choose 'Poaceae' under Family.  Scroll to the bottom of the page and choose 'Display Results' to see a list of grasses that occur in Allen County, Indiana.  Disregarding the varieties (var.) or subspecies (ssp.) listed, you will find around 50 species listed.  From those you are going to want to pick out ones for the nature hunt that have bloomed in the summer so that they still have their seedheads attached.  To determine this you can look the grasses up in our Native Plant Database.  To make this a little simpler to do, I suggest that you use the Family area from the Search native plant database box and scroll down to choose 'Poaceae (Grass Family)'.   This will give you a list of all members of the Family Poaceae (more than 380 species) in our Native Plant Database.  Use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option in the side bar to narrow that list down to those that occur in Indiana (under SELECT STATE OR PROVINCE) and also to narrow it to ones that have bloomed in July, August, and September (under BLOOM TIME).  Now you have a reasonable size list to compare to the list of the grasses that occur in Allen County.

Here are some grasses from the Allen County list in our Native Plant Database for which we have photographs:

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Bromus kalmii (Arctic brome)

Calamagrostis canadensis (Bluejoint)

Dichanthelium sphaerocarpon (Roundseed panicgrass)

Elymus hystrix var. hystrix (Eastern bottlebrush grass)

Glyceria striata (Fowl mannagrass)

Hordeum jubatum (Foxtail barley)

Muhlenbergia schreberi (Nimblewill)

Panicum capillare (Witchgrass)

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Here are some resources with more photos:

Illinois Wildflowers has a section on Grasses, Sedges & Plants without Flowers and contains photos and detailed information on many of the Allen County grasses.

Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation has a Plant Image Gallery: Grasses and Grasslike Plants

Kansas Wildflowers & Grasses from K-State Libraries

There isn't, of course, a key to just the grasses that occur in Allen County but here are some online keys to grasses.  You need to realize that the botanical names  have a way of changing.  You can see synonyms for former names listed on the USDA Plants Database page for each species.

A World Wide Web Key to the Grass General of Texas by John E. Dawson III & Stephan L. Hatch from Texas A&M University

How to Know the Grasses by R. W. Pohl.  Dubuque, Iowa:  Wm. C. Brown Co.  1954.  From Internet Archive.

Virginia Tech Weed Identification Guide from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Grass Manual on the Web from University of Utah

Prairie Grass Identification Key from Prairie Parcel Restoration

 

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