poverty dropseed
Sporobolus vaginiflorus (Torr. ex Gray) Alph. Wood

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Poverty grass is widespread in the eastern half of North America. This species is found throughout Iowa, mainly in disturbed areas or dry, sterile soils, but is not recorded officially from a number of counties. Poverty grass is very similar to puffsheath dropseed (Sporobolus neglectus), but can be distinguished by its less inflated leaf sheaths, less ovate, larger spikelets, and hairy lemmas. In both species, the flowering heads are usually mostly or completely enclosed in the leaf sheaths. This species flowers in August and September in Iowa.

Etymology: Sporobolus from the Greek sporo = seed and ballein = to throw, referring to the free seeds in many species of this genus that are sometimes forcibly ejected when the usually mucilaginous fruit wall dries; vaginiflorus from the Latin vagina = sheath and flos = flower, referring to the flowering heads enclosed by the leaf sheaths.


Plants annual, delicate, tufted. Culms 12-70 cm tall. Leaves with the sheaths open, usually glabrous; ligules a line of hairs 0.1-0.3 mm long; blades 2-12 (-18) cm long, 1-2 mm wide, flat, the lower surface glabrous, the upper surface minutely roughened, often with warty-based hairs on both surfaces near the base of the blade. Flowering heads terminal and axillary, 1-4 (-6) cm long, 0.2-0.5 cm wide, narrow, usually enclosed within the somewhat inflated sheaths of the leaves but sometimes the terminal flowering heads fully exserted. Spikelets 3.6-6.3 mm long, tawny or sometimes purplish, laterally compressed; glumes subequal, membranous, 1-nerved, 2.8-4.8 mm long; lemmas 3.2-5.2 mm long,1-nerved, membranous, acute; paleas often longer than the lemmas, sometimes the apex drawn out into a beak up to 1 mm long, 2-nerved, membranous. Fruits 1.8-2.7 mm long, obovoid. Chromosome number 2n = 72.



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