This perennial grass is ¾-1½' tall, consisting of a flowering culm with
several alternate leaves. The culm is pale green, glabrous, and terete.
The leaf blades are 1½-5" long, 3-6 mm. across, and flat;
they are ascending to widely spreading. The upper and lower blade
are medium green to grayish green and glabrous. The leaf sheaths are
grayish green or
bluish green, slightly inflated around the culm, glabrous, and
sometimes glaucous. The ligules are white-membranous, while the nodes
are dark-colored and hairless.
Each fertile culm terminates in a spike-like
panicle that is about 1-3" long and 4-5 mm. in diameter; the panicle is
narrowly cylindrical in shape and light green when it is
immature. The single-flowered spikelets are densely arranged
along the entire length of each panicle; they are overlapping,
ascending, and soft. Each spikelet is about 2-3 mm. long with an
ellipsoid shape that is compressed (flattened),
consisting of a pair of glumes, a pair of lemmas, and a perfect floret.
The glumes are keeled, where they are conspicuously ciliate; they are
softly short-hairy below the middle and joined together at the base.
are glabrous and joined together at the base; the fertile lemma has a
short awn that originates from below the middle of its length. This awn
is exserted up to 1.0 mm. from the tip of the spikelet. The infertile
lemma is similar in appearance to the fertile lemma, except that it
lacks an awn. Both the glumes and lemmas are about the same length as
the spikelet (excluding the awn). Each floret has 3 stamens and a pair
of feathery stigmata; the anthers are pale yellow to orange. The
blooming period occurs from late spring to mid-summer, lasting about
1-2 weeks. The florets are cross-pollinated by the wind. Fertile
florets are replaced by small grains. The root system is shallow and
Colonies of plants often develop at favorable sites.
The preference is full or partial sun, wet conditions (including
shallow standing water), and mucky soil with decaying organic matter.
This grass can tolerate shallow standing water during the growing
season for up to 2 months. It has a C3 metabolism, preferring
cool moist conditions for its growth and development.
The native Short-Awned Foxtail is
uncommon in Illinois,
occurring in scattered areas across the state (Distribution
In addition to North
America, this grass also occurs in Eurasia. Habitats include prairie
swales, edges of bogs, partially shaded seeps, swamps, low areas along
and ditches. In Illinois, this grass usually occurs in higher quality
natural areas, although it sometimes colonizes disturbed areas.
Very little is known about floral-faunal
for Short-Awned Foxtail and other members of its genus. Some
common leaf beetles are known to feed on the foliage of these grasses,
such as Myochrous
(Southern Corn Leaf Beetle) and Oulema
(Cereal Leaf Beetle). The young foliage is
edible to cattle
and other hoofed mammalian herbivores, but it becomes less palatable as
A partially shaded seep at the Horseshoe Bottoms
in Vermilion County, Illinois.
Even though they share the common name,
'Foxtail,' the cool-season Alopecurus
are quite distinct from the
weedy warm-season Setaria
Sometimes the latter are referred to as
'Bristlegrasses' because their spike-like panicles can feel bristly and
rough depending on the direction in which they are rubbed. In contrast,
panicles of Alopecurus
feel soft, regardless of which direction they are
rubbed. Another species, Phleum
(Timothy), is a larger grass with spike-like
panicles that are more stout; its panicles also feel more rough when
they are rubbed. Short-awned Foxtail (Alopecurus
) can be distinguished
from other Alopecurus
by the its short awns, which are exserted no
more than about 1 mm. from the tips of its spikelets. Other species of
this genus that occur in Illinois have awns that are exserted 2.0 mm.
are more from the tips of their spikelets. In addition, the spike-like
these other species tend to be more stout (5.5 mm. or more in