Grass family (Poaceae)
This is a perennial grass about 3-4½'
tall, consisting of individual
leafy culms or tufts of 2-3 leafy culms. The culms are light green,
glabrous, terete, relatively stout, and hollow. There are typically
about 4 alternate leaves per culm. The floppy leaf blades are up to 16
mm. across, 12" long, and linear in shape; the bases of these
blades are more wide than their culms. The upper blade surface is
medium green and glabrous, while the lower blade surface is
gray-green, glabrous, and sometimes glaucous. The blade
margins feel rough. Leaf sheaths are light to
medium gray-green, longitudinally veined, glabrous, and
sometimes glaucous; they wrap
tightly around their culms, except toward their apices, where V-shaped
openings occur near the blades. The ligules are white-membranous, while
the nodes are slightly swollen, light green, and glabrous. Each culm
terminates in a panicle of spikelets up to 12" long and 6" across. The
panicle is pyramidal-oblongoid in outline and its overall appearance is
airy and droopy.
Along the central stalk (or axis) of the panicle,
there are whorls of 2-6 lateral branches (up to 4" in length) that
individually subdivide into 1-4 whorled branchlets. However, toward the
apex of the central axis, there are usually a few alternate branches.
Both the branches and branchlets are widely spreading to drooping; they
are light gray-green and glabrous to minutely short-pubescent.
Individual spikelets occur along the branchlets on short pedicels
up to 5 mm. long. These spikelets are 2.5-4.0 mm. long, ellipsoid in
shape, glabrous, and single-flowered; they are light green while
immature, becoming tan to brown at maturity. Each spikelet consists of
a pair of outer glumes, a single lemma with a palea, and a perfect
floret. The equal-sized glumes are the same length as the spikelets,
in shape, 3-veined, and convex along their outer sides; they have
white-membranous margins. The glumes enclose and hide a slightly
smaller lemma and palea. There are 3 stamens with pale yellow anthers
and a pair of white feathery stigmata; the anthers are 1.5-2.0 mm.
long. The blooming period occurs during late spring or early summer.
When the spikelets become mature, they disarticulate above the glumes.
The grains are about 2.0-3.0 mm. long, 1 mm. across, and ellipsoid
in shape. The root system is fibrous.
preference is partial sun to medium shade, moist conditions, and soil
containing muck, loam, clay-loam, or sandy loam. This cool-season grass
develops quickly during the spring.
& Habitat: The
native Millet Grass has been found in only 3 counties of Illinois (see
it is rare within the state and state-listed as
'endangered.' Illinois lies along the southwestern range limit of
this grass. In addition to northeastern North America, it also
occurs in Eurasia. Habitats consist of wet to mesic woodlands
(including sandy woodlands), woodland openings, flatwoods in upland
moraines, seeps and springs in wooded areas, areas along
paths, and sedge meadows. In Illinois, Millet Grass is found in higher
quality natural areas. It is found in deciduous woodlands within the
state, although it also occurs in mixed woodlands outside of the state.
Little is known about floral-faunal
this species. The foliage is regarded as good forage for hoofed
mammalian herbivores (cattle, horses, sheep, etc.).
Location: Along a path in a moist sandy woodland at the
Indiana Dunes State Park in NW Indiana.
This is one of the tallest woodland
grasses during the spring and early
summer. It usually occurs as scattered plants, rather than in dense
colonies. Because of its size and general appearance, Millet Grass
superficially resembles Stout Wood Reed (Cinna arundinacia),
latter is slower to develop and its spikelets disarticulate below the
glumes. Because of its single-flowered ellipsoid spikelets, Millet
Grass also resembles some panic grasses (Panicum spp.), but
have spikelets with unequal-sized glumes. Unlike Millet Grass, the
smaller glumes of panic grasses are much shorter than their spikelets.
In addition to these grasses, Millet Grass should not be confused with
cultivated millet, which refers to several grasses of the Old World.
Some of the most common cultivated millets include Pearl Millet
Proso Millet (Panicum
miliaceum), Foxtail Millet
esculenta). Other common names of Milium
effusum include Tall Millet Grass and Wood
Millet. This is the only grass species of this genus in Illinois.