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James P. Smith, Jr., except as specified

Annual to bamboo-like; roots generally fibrous
Stem generally round, hollow; nodes swollen, solid
Leaves alternate, 2-ranked, generally linear; sheath generally open; ligule membranous or hairy, at blade base
Inflorescence various (of generally many spikelets)
Spikelet: glumes generally 2; florets (lemma, palea, flower) 1–many; lemma generally membranous, sometimes glume-like; palea generally ± transparent, ± enclosed by lemma
Flower generally bisexual, minute; stamens generally 3; stigmas generally 2, generally plumose
Fruit: achene-like grain
Genera in family: 650–900 genera; ± 10,000 species: worldwide; greatest economic importance of any family (wheat, rice, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, forage crops, ornamental, weeds; thatching, weaving, building materials)
Reference: [Hitchcock 1951 Manual grasses US, USDA Misc Publ 200; Clayton & Renvoise 1986 Kew Bull Add Series 13]
See Glossary p. 26 for illustrations of general family characteristics. Generally wind-pollinated.


Perennial, mat-like, from rhizomes or stolons
Stems ± branched
Leaf: blade short, flat, narrow, fleshy
Inflorescence umbel-like; branches 2–20, spike-like, with 2 rows of overlapping spikelets along 1 side of axis; spikelets sessile
Spikelet bisexual, strongly compressed; glumes ± equal, 1-veined, awn 0; floret 1, rarely 2, upper floret vestigial, breaking above glumes; lemma keeled, 3-veined, awn 0; palea = lemma, 2-veined
Species in genus: 8–10 species: tropical, warm temp Eurasia, Africa
Etymology: (Greek: dog tooth, from hard scales on rhizomes)
Reference: [Harlan et al. 1970 Okla State Univ Agric Exp Sta Bull B–673]


C. dactylon (L.) Pers.


Perennial from rhizomes or stolons
Stem generally erect, 1–4 dm, flat
Leaf: ligule white-hairy; blade < 6 cm, glabrous or upper surface hairy
Inflorescence: branches 2.5–5 cm, generally 4–7
Spikelet ± 2 mm; glumes ± 1.5 mm, generally purplish; lemma ± 2 mm, boat-shaped, acute, keel and margins hairy; palea keels glabrous
Chromosomes: 2n=36
Ecology: Disturbed sites
Elevation: < 900 m.
Bioregional distribution: California Floristic Province, White and Inyo Mountains, Desert
Distribution outside California: warm temperate, tropical; native to Africa
Flowering time: Jun–Aug
Cult for lawns, forage. TOXIC: important pollen source in hay fever; may produce contact dermatitis.

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