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Distichlis spicata

Higher Taxonomy
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)View DescriptionDichotomous Key
Habit: Annual to woody perennial herb; roots generally fibrous. Stem: generally round, hollow; nodes swollen, solid. Leaf: alternate, 2-ranked, generally linear, parallel-veined; 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; perianth vestigial; stamens generally 3; stigmas generally 2, generally plumose. Fruit: grain, sometimes achene- or utricle-like.
Genera In Family: 650--900 genera; +- 10550 species: worldwide; greatest economic importance of any family (wheat, rice, maize, millet, sorghum, sugar cane, forage crops, ornamental, weeds; thatching, weaving, building materials). Note: Generally wind-pollinated. Achnatherum, Ampelodesmos, Hesperostipa, Nassella, Piptatherum, Piptochaetium, Ptilagrostis moved to Stipa; Elytrigia, Leymus, Pascopyrum, Pseudoroegneria, Taeniatherum to Elymus; Hierochloe to Anthoxanthum; Lolium, Vulpia to Festuca; Lycurus to Muhlenbergia; Monanthochloe to Distichlis; Pleuraphis to Hilaria; Rhynchelytrum to Melinis. The following taxa (in genera not included here), recorded in California from historical collections or reported in literature, are extirpated, lacking vouchers, or not considered naturalized: Acrachne racemosa (Roth) Ohwi, Allolepis texana (Vasey) Soderstr. & H.F. Decker, Amphibromus nervosus (Hook. f.) Baill., Axonopus affinis Chase, Axonopus fissifolius (Raddi) Kuhlm., Coix lacryma-jobi L., Cutandia memphitica (Spreng.) K. Richt., Dinebra retroflexa (Vahl) Panz., Eremochloa ciliaris (L.) Merr., Eustachys distichophylla (Lag.) Nees, Gaudinia fragilis (L.) P. Beauv., Miscanthus sinensis Andersson, Neyraudia arundinacea (L.) Henrard, Phyllostachys aurea Rivière & C. Rivière, Phyllostachys bambusoides Siebold & Zuccarini, Rottboellia cochinchinensis (Lour.) Clayton, Schedonnardus paniculatus (Nutt.) Branner & Coville, Schizachyrium cirratum (Hack.) Wooton & Standl., Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash, Themeda quadrivalvis (L.) Kuntze, Thysanolaena latifolia (Hornem.) Honda, Tribolium obliterum (Hemsl.) Renvoize, Zea mays L., Zizania palustris L. var. interior (Fassett) Dore, Zoysia japonica Steud. Paspalum pubiflorum E. Fourn., Paspalum quadrifarium Lam., are now reported for southern California (J Bot Res Inst Texas 4:761--770). See Glossary p. 30 for illustrations of general family characteristics.
eFlora Treatment Author: James P. Smith, Jr., except as noted
Scientific Editor: James P. Smith, Jr., J. Travis Columbus, Dieter H. Wilken.
Genus: DistichlisView DescriptionDichotomous Key

Habit: Perennial herb from scaly rhizomes or glabrous stolons; dioecious (monoecious). Stem: matted (< 5 cm) to ascending and erect (<= 80 cm), stiff, glabrous, solid in ×-section. Leaf: conspicuously 2-ranked; ligule membranous or fringed; blade flat or +- rolled, if short awl-like, generally glabrous, occasionally with hairy tufts at collar. Inflorescence: panicle- or raceme-like (a single spikelet); spikelets short-pedicelled (sessile), staminate inflorescence sometimes above leaves. Spikelet: unisexual; pistillate generally = staminate, generally laterally compressed; glumes unequal (0), firm, awns 0, lower 3(5)-veined, upper 5--7(9)-veined; axis breaking above glumes and between florets; florets 3--20; lemma wide narrowing to acuminate tip, 7--11-veined, awn 0; palea +- = lemma; keel minutely hairy or scabrous.
Etymology: (Greek: in 2 rows, from leaf arrangement)
eFlora Treatment Author: Hester L. Bell
Reference: Beetle 1943 Bull Torr Bot Club 70:638--650; Bell & Columbus 2008 Syst Bot 33:536--551
Distichlis spicata (L.) Greene
Habit: Perennial herb; rhizomes stout, scaly, +- yellow; stolons rarely present. Stem: erect, 1--5(8) dm. Leaf: blade generally 2--10 cm, flat, stiff. Inflorescence: panicle-like, 2--8 cm, narrowly +- cylindric to elliptic in outline, +- dense. Spikelet: 2--20 per inflorescence, 6--20(25) mm, straw-colored to +- purple; glumes 2, 1.5--4 mm; florets 5--15; lemma 3--6 mm; keel ciliate in pistillate florets. Chromosomes: 2n=40.
Ecology: Salt marshes, coastal dunes, moist, alkaline areas; Elevation: < 1550 m. Bioregional Distribution: NCo, KR, NCoRI, NCoRO, CaR, SN, GV, CW, SW, GB (exc Wrn, W&I), D (exc DMtns); Distribution Outside California: southern Canada, United States, Mexico, South America. Flowering Time: Apr--Sep
Unabridged Synonyms: Distichlis spicata var. divaricata Beetle; Distichlis spicata var. nana Beetle; Distichlis spicata var. stolonifera Beetle; Distichlis spicata var. stricta (Torr.) Scribn.
Jepson eFlora Author: Hester L. Bell
Reference: Beetle 1943 Bull Torr Bot Club 70:638--650; Bell & Columbus 2008 Syst Bot 33:536--551
Index of California Plant Names (ICPN; linked via the Jepson Online Interchange)

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Botanical illustration including Distichlis spicata

botanical illustration including Distichlis spicata

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Citation for this treatment: Hester L. Bell 2012, Distichlis spicata, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 14, 2024.

Citation for the whole project: Jepson Flora Project (eds.) 2024, Jepson eFlora,, accessed on April 14, 2024.

Distichlis spicata
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©2008 Steve Matson
Distichlis spicata
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©1999 California Academy of Sciences
Distichlis spicata
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©2009 Keir Morse
Distichlis spicata
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©2009 Neal Kramer
Distichlis spicata
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©2016 Keir Morse

More photos of Distichlis spicata
in CalPhotos

Geographic subdivisions for Distichlis spicata:
NCo, KR, NCoRI, NCoRO, CaR, SN, GV, CW, SW, GB (exc Wrn, W&I), D (exc DMtns)
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map of distribution 1
(Note: any qualifiers in the taxon distribution description, such as 'northern', 'southern', 'adjacent' etc., are not reflected in the map above, and in some cases indication of a taxon in a subdivision is based on a single collection or author-verified occurence).


Data provided by the participants of the  Consortium of California Herbaria.
View all CCH records
All markers link to CCH specimen records. The original determination is shown in the popup window.
Blue markers indicate specimens that map to one of the expected Jepson geographic subdivisions (see left map). Purple markers indicate specimens collected from a garden, greenhouse, or other non-wild location.
Yellow markers indicate records that may provide evidence for eFlora range revision or may have georeferencing or identification issues.

CCH collections by month

Duplicates counted once; synonyms included.
Species do not include records of infraspecific taxa, if there are more than 1 infraspecific taxon in CA.
Blue line denotes eFlora flowering time (fruiting time in some monocot genera).