Plant Guide > Grasses > Black Oat Grass

Black Oat Grass


Stipa avenacea L

Through some selective process of Nature her longest-awned grasses are most frequently found on dry and rocky soil. The Aristidas, and the different genera known under the name of Oatgrasses, often grow near dry woods, in that interesting borderland where wild black beneath white birches and spirelike cedars.

Bottle-brush Grass retreats farther into the woods, and Black Oat-grass is also found within their shelter, usually on the southern slope of some open woodland where the sunlight penetrates the leafy shade.

The greater number of the species of this genus (Stipa) are found west of the Mississippi, and form the Bunch-grasses, Feather-grasses, and Needle-grasses of the plains.

Black Oat-grass is common eastward in early summer, when the loose, few-flowered panicles rise above the tightly rolled and thread-like leaves. The ripened flowering-heads often remain on this grass until autumn, and the long awns, bent near the middle and twisted below, spread widely from the scales.

These twisted awns uncoil during damp weather but coil tightly again when the sun shines, and from this habit the Stipas, in older days, were known as "weather grasses."

A foreign species, with silky-feathered awns nearly a foot in length, has been cultivated for its beauty, and a species of southern Europe is an important article of commerce, baskets, ropes, and paper being made from the tough leaves.

Black Oat-grass. Stipa avenacea L

Perennial.

Stem 1-3 ft. tall, slender, erect. Ligule about 1" long. Leaves involute, thread-like, stem leaves 3'-5' long, basal leaves longer.

Panicle 4'-8' long, few-flowered, open, branches slender. Spikelets 1-flowered, narrow, 4"-5" long. Scales 3; outer scales narrow, nearly
equal, acute; flowering scale blackish, hairy at base and bearing a bent, loosely twisted, terminal awn about 2' long. Stamens 3.

Dry, open woods. May to July.

Southern New England to Ontario and Wisconsin, south to Florida and Mississippi.