Plant Guide > Grasses > Marsh Oats Grass

Marsh Oats Grass

Marsh Oats GrassSphenopholis palustris (Michx.) Scribn.

In the crevices and depressions of those rocks that push out into woodland brooks, mosses and lichens surround the roots of a few plants which might appear to be true air-plants, deriving their sustenance from the winds of heaven, so scanty are the visible means of support.

But pull up the stalk of one of these - flower, and stem, and root - and see how closely the rootlets hug the rock, and penetrating the tiniest crevices hold the plants as securely as though they were anchored on deep soil.

One of the early summer grasses on such rocks, and near them, is the Marsh Oats, which, although allied to other Oat-grasses, unlike them is found in the low grounds of wet meadows and by brooksides.

The grass is slender, with thin, flat leaves, and narrow, loosely flowered panicles whose flat spikelets of pale green and yellow bear each a conspicuous awn from the upper flower. In this latter peculiarity it differs from other species of this genus which, like it, are slender, light green grasses of early summer.

Although natives of this country these grasses are seldom found in great abundance in the East.

Marsh Oats. Sphenopholis palustris (Michx.) Scribn.


Stem 1-3 ft. tall, slender, erect. Ligule less than 1" long. Leaves 1'-5' long, about 2" wide, flat, roughish.

Panicle 2'-8' long, narrow, loosely flowered, yellowish green, branches short, slender. Spikelets 2-flowered, about 3" long. Outer scales acute, nearly equal; flowering scales roughish, 2-toothed, scale of lower flower awnless (or rarely bearing a rudimentary awn), scale of upper flower bearing from between its teeth an awn about 3" long. Rachilla prolonged. Stamens 3.

Low grounds. May to July.

Massachusetts to Illinois, south to Florida and Louisiana.