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Salt Grass

Distichlis spicata

Distichlis spicata, salt grass, photo © by Michael Plagens

Observed adjaent to Kearny Lake, Pinal Co., Arizona, USA. June 2010.

PERENNIAL GRASS: As the name implies, this tough grass is a perennial found in moist, saline soils. Spikes can reach a meter or more tall. It spreads by tough, scaly lateral stems (rhizomes) that creep along the soil surface. This arrangement also helps hold the soil in place during flood events.

close-up view of spikelets, Distichlis spicata FLOWERS: Spikelets appear on a densely branching, compact inflorescence. As the florets first appear the spikelet may have a purplish color. Plants are generally either male, producing just pollen, of female producing ovules and seeds.

LEAVES: Stiff, pointed leaves are up to 10 cm long and less than 0.4 cm wide. Leaf blades are paired along the stem.

RANGE: Fairly common in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona wherever the soil is poorly drained or has an accumulation of alkaline or sodium salts. These are generally low places well away from saguaro cacti or other succulents. Found in similar situations across North America.

FRUIT: A grain.


Family: Poaceae

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Copyright Michael J. Plagens, 1999-2010