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tuft hair grass

Bering hairgrass

Habit Plants perennial; loosely to tightly cespitose. Plants perennial; cespitose, not glaucous.

(7) 35-150 cm, erect, not rooting at the lower nodes.

5-55 cm, erect, glabrous.


mostly basal, sometimes forming a dense 10-35 cm tuft;

sheaths glabrous;

ligules 2-13 mm, scarious, decurrent, obtuse to acute;

blades 5-30 cm long, usually at least some flat and 1-4 mm wide, the remainder folded or rolled and 0.5-1 mm in diameter, adaxial surfaces with 5-11 prominent ribs, ribs usually all papillose, scabridulous, or scabrous, sometimes puberulent, outer ribs sometimes more strongly so than the inner ribs.

often forming a basal tuft;

sheaths glabrous;

ligules 1-4.5 mm, acute or acuminate, entire;

blades 2-12 (16) cm long, usually 0.3-0.8 mm in diameter, folded or convolute, 0.5-2 mm wide when flat, abaxial surfaces glabrous, adaxial surfaces glabrous or sparsely hirtellous, sometimes scabrous, blades of flag leaves 0.8-3 cm.


8-30(40) cm, 4-30 cm wide, usually open and pyramidal, sometimes contracted and ovate;

branches straight to slightly flexuous, usually strongly divergent, sometimes strongly ascending, lower branches often scabridulous or scabrous, particularly distally, with not or only moderately imbricate spikelets.

1.5-10(12) cm long, 0.5-2(11) cm wide, usually dense, oblong-ovate to narrowly cylindrical;

branches 1-3.6(6) cm, straight, usually stiff, erect to ascending, usually smooth or almost so, scabrules separated by 0.2+ mm, spikelet-bearing to near the base.


2.5-7.6 mm, ovate to V-shaped, laterally compressed, usually bisexual, sometimes viviparous, bisexual spikelets usually with 2(3) florets, rarely with 1.

2.3-6 mm, ovate to obovate, with 2(3) florets.


lanceolate, acute;

lower glumes 2.7-7 mm, entire, 1-3-veined, midvein sometimes scabridulous, at least distally;

upper glumes 2-7.5 mm, 1-3-veined, lanceolate, midvein smooth or wholly or partly scabridulous;

callus hairs 0.2-2.3 mm;

lemmas 2-5(7) mm, smooth, shiny, glabrous, usually purple over less than 1/2 their surface, purple or green proximally, if green, often with a purple band about midlength, usually green or pale distally, usually awned, awns (0.5)1-8 mm, attached from near the base to about midlength, straight or geniculate, sometimes exceeding the glumes;

anthers 1.5-3 mm.

subequal to equal, 2.5-5.6 mm, purplish over more than 1/2 their surface, lanceolate, smooth, acuminate or acute;

lower glumes 1-veined, smooth;

upper glumes exceeding to exceeded by the lowest floret, 3-veined;

callus hairs 0.2-2 mm;

lemmas 2.2-4 mm, oblong or lanceolate, smooth, shiny, glabrous, awns (0.2)0.7-4 mm, usually equaling or exceeding the lemmas, straight or weakly geniculate, usually attached from near the base to midlength, occasionally connate almost their full length;

anthers 1.2-2.5 mm.


0.5-1 mm.


voucher specimens for these counts have not been examined.


= 18, 24, 25, 26-28, about 39, 52.

= 26, 27, 28, about 50, 52.

Deschampsia cespitosa

Deschampsia brevifolia

from FNA
AK; AZ; CA; CO; CT; ID; IL; IN; KY; MA; MD; ME; MI; MN; MT; NC; ND; NH; NJ; NM; NV; NY; OH; OR; PA; RI; SD; UT; VA; VT; WA; WI; WV; WY; AB; BC; MB; NB; NL; NS; NT; NU; ON; PE; QC; SK; YT; Greenland
[WildflowerSearch map]
from FNA
AK; NF; NT; NU; QC; YT; Greenland
[BONAP county map]

Deschampsia cespitosa is circumboreal in the Northern Hemisphere, and also grows in New Zealand and Australia. It is an attractive taxon that grows in wet meadows and bogs, and along streams and lakes, from sea level to over 3000 m in cool-temperate, but not arctic, habitats.

There are widely varying opinions concerning the taxonomic treatment of Deschampsia cespitosa. Tsvelev, Aiken, Murray, and Elven (per Murray, pers. com. 2005) recommend a narrow circumscription, and consider D. cespitosa to be introduced and mostly ruderal in regions other than Europe and western Siberia. Chiapella and Probatova (2003) adopted a much broader interpretation of D. cespitosa, treating many of the species recognized in, for example, Tsvelev (1995) as subspecies. There have been no interdisplinary, global studies of the complex. The circumscription adopted here is narrower than has been customary in North America. Some of the distribution records shown, particularly those from the northern part of the region, may reflect the broad interpretation of the species.

Lawrence (1945) demonstrated that, in western North America, Deschampsia cespitosa exhibits both ecotypic differentiation and a high degree of plasticity. The following three subspecies intergrade.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

Deschampsia brevifolia is a circumboreal taxon that grows in wet places in the tundra, often in disturbed soils associated with riverbanks, frost-heaving, etc. It is interpreted here as extending southward through the Rocky Mountains to Colorado, where it grows at elevations up to 4300 m. It is to be expected from high elevations in British Columbia and Alberta; specimens currently identified as D. cespitosa, in which D. brevifolia is often included as a subspecies, need to be examined.

In its typical appearance, Deschampsia brevifolia is quite distinctive because of its dark, narrow panicles. Culm height can vary substantially from year to year, probably in response to the environment. Aiken et al. (1995 on) reported that plants transplanted from Eureka Sound, Ellesmere Island (80° 9' N 86° 0' W) to Iqaluit, Baffin Island (64° 44' N 68° 28' W) became smaller and more stunted; most of those transplanted to Ottawa, Ontario (45° 18' N 75° 50' W) died, but some grew larger than at the original site, and developed more diffuse panicles.

(Discussion copyrighted by Flora of North America; reprinted with permission.)

1. Panicles contracted at anthesis, the branches appressed to ascending; glumes 4.5-5.8 mm long, midvein of the lower glumes scabrous distally
subsp. holciformis
1. Panicles open at anthesis, the branches strongly divergent to drooping; glumes 2-7.5 mm long; midvein of the lower glumes smooth or scabridulous distally.
→ 2
2. Plants often glaucous; glumes 4.4-7.5 mm long; awns usually exceeding the lemmas; plants of the northwest coast of North America
subsp. beringensis
2. Plants not glaucous; glumes 2-6 mm long; awns exceeded by or exceeding the lemmas; plants widespread in North America
subsp. cespitosa
Source FNA vol. 24, p. 626. FNA vol. 24, p. 629.
Parent taxa Poaceae > subfam. Pooideae > tribe Poeae > Deschampsia Poaceae > subfam. Pooideae > tribe Poeae > Deschampsia
Sibling taxa
D. alpina, D. brevifolia, D. danthonioides, D. elongata, D. flexuosa, D. mackenzieana, D. sukatschewii
D. alpina, D. cespitosa, D. danthonioides, D. elongata, D. flexuosa, D. mackenzieana, D. sukatschewii
Subordinate taxa
D. cespitosa subsp. beringensis, D. cespitosa subsp. cespitosa, D. cespitosa subsp. holciformis
Synonyms D. caespitosa var. genuina, D. caespitosa var. arctica, D. caespitosa D. arctica, D. cespitosa subsp. brevifolia
Name authority (L.) P. Beauv. R. Br.
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