Plant Guide > Grasses > Bottle Brush Grass

Bottle Brush Grass

Bottle Brush GrassHystrix patula Moench.

While the Red-top is pressing the warmth of its colouring into every conspicuous place, the cool woodlands hold a few strikingly
individual grasses that are not found mingling with the bourgeoisie of the fields.

Shade-loving grasses of the woods are rarely crowded, and appear to be careless of that striving for position which keeps the grasses of the open pressed so closely leaf against leaf.

With the name of Bottle-brush Grass in mind this plant is instantly recognized when seen, since the loose, spreading spike is so unlike the flowering-heads of other grasses, even those of other long-awned species.

About this grass there is ever a suggestion of the aristocrat, none of the beggars for a roothold is this, but a plant that condescends in using the earth, and confers a royal favour by appearing in the shadows where the sunlight falls in broken gleams.

The tall stems of Bottle-brush Grass rise from among the rocks where there seems no earth in the crevices to support life, and as the pale spikelets open and spread their silvery awns the plant is one of rare beauty, worth many a long tramp in the search for it.

The nodes of the leafy stems are very dark, and the lower sheaths are
frequently tinged with purple.

The thickened bases of the spikelets are banded with narrow lines of brown, marking the place of abortive scales which in the lower spikelets appear as thread-like awns, and in the upper spikelets show as tiny points.

The ripened spikelets soon fall from the ribbon-like rachis, but the faded stems endure winter's cold and remain standing through a second season.

Bottle-brush Grass. Hystrix patula Moench.


Stem 2-4 ft. tall, rather slender, erect. Ligule very short. Leaves 5'-10' long, 3"-6" wide, flat, roughish, downy on upper surface.

Spike 3'-7' long, not densely flowered. Spikelets 2-4-flowered, spreading, in 2's or 3's at each joint of the flattened rachis. Outer empty scales awn-like, sometimes 9" long, usually present only in lower spikelets; flowering scales 4"-6" long terminating in a slender, rough awn 10"-18" long; palets nearly as long as flowering scales. Stamens 3, anthers yellowish green.

Rocky woods. June to August.

New Brunswick to Ontario and Minnesota, south to Georgia and Arkansas