starved panicgrass
Dichanthelium depauperatum (Muhl.) Gould

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Although widespread in the eastern United States, starved panicgrass is rare in Iowa and is mostly known from central and northeastern counties and along the Mississippi River. The plants grow in dry, open woodlands and prairies and open, disturbed areas, especially on sandy soil. Like other species of Dichanthelium, starved panicgrass is characterized by two distinct blooming periods. The conspicuous primary flowering heads are terminal to the culms and are produced from May into June, early in the season. Later on, usually from late June through July (and rarely later), the plants branch profusely to produce small secondary flowering heads in the basal leaf axils. The primary flowering heads usually have a lower seed set than the secondary ones, which have flowers that remain closed and are self-pollinated.

Dichantheliums normally produce a basal rosette of leaves that persists through the winter, remaining green. In starved panicgrass and the other three species that it is most closely related to, the basal rosette is usually only poorly developed. In addition, these four species share narrow leaf blades (usually at least 20 times longer than wide). Starved panicgrass is readily distinguished from the other linear-leaved dichantheliums, though, by its larger spikelets (3.1-4 mm long) that have a small beak formed by the lower bracts that extend beyond the shiny fertile floret and cup over its tip. This species forms occasional hybrids with linear-leaved panicgrass (Dichanthelium linearifolium) and long-stalked panicgrass (Dichanthelium perlongum).

Etymology: Dichanthelium from the Greek di = twice and anth = flowering, referring to the occurrence of two distinct flowering periods; depauperatum from the Latin depauperatus = starved, referring to the relatively reduced appearance of these plants.


Plants perennial, tufted. Culms 15-40 cm tall, erect to spreading, the lower several internodes telescoped together, less than 2 cm long, the upper two internodes elongated; nodes hairy. Fall phase a dense mass of erect blades and shortened branches that arise from the basal culm nodes, about 1/2 of the branches sterile. Basal rosettes poorly differentiated. Leaves along the culms with sheaths smooth to densely hairy, the hairs with swollen bases; blades 4-20 cm long, 2-3 mm wide, green to grayish green, usually flat, smooth to densely hairy (at least the lower surface), the tips long-tapering, the lower blades small to vestigial, the top 2 or 3 longer and stiffly erect. Primary flowering heads 3-6 (-7) cm long, 1-2 cm wide, usually long-exserted. Spikelets 3.1-4 mm long, 1.4-1.8 mm wide, ellipsoid, smooth to finely and sparsely hairy; lower glume 1.2-1.9 mm, narrowly triangular; upper glume and lower lemma exceeding the shiny upper floret by 0.2-1 mm, forming a pointed beak. Chromosome number 2n = 18.


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