Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Early Bluegrass - Poa cuspidata   Nuttall
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Poa with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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DistributionMountains and Piedmont. Absent from the Sandhills and the Coastal Plain, except locally at sites with Piedmont-like soils (mainly along brownwater rivers).

NJ to IN, south to GA and AL.
AbundanceGenerally common in the Piedmont and most of the Mountains; rare on the Coastal Plain. This is clearly an S5 species in NC.
HabitatMesic to moist, nutrient-rich, hardwoods and pine-hardwood slopes and ravines, descending to the upper margins of brownwater floodplains.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting March-April; most fruits drop by May. One of the earliest grass species to flower in NC.
IdentificationThese plants are perennial and 1-2 feet tall, growing from horizontal rhizomes (unlike most of out native bluegrasses, which lack rhizomes). Like some other NC Poa species, the inflorescences are composed of well-spaced whorls, but in this case only 2 (-3) branches per whorl. Spikelets occur near the ends of the branches and lemmas have a tuft or web of hairs at the base. This is a welcome companion on spring wildflower walks.
Taxonomic CommentsNone

The genus Poa contains some 500 species globally, about 70 in N.A. A typical Poa species has a number of basal leaves, few stem leaves, and a terminal, open inflorescence. The inflorescence is composed of well-spaced whorls of 2-6 skinny branches, usually with short side branchlets and these bearing spikelets. Branches may be strongly ascending, horizontal, or reflexed. Spikelets are composed of 2-6 florets and are generally laterally compressed. Each glume and lemma is acute to blunt, but seldom acuminate as in many Festuca species. Unlike Festuca and Bromus, most Poa species have a small wispy tuft of white hairs at the base of each floret.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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Photo Gallery
B.A. SorrieSame data. MoorePhoto_natural
B.A. SorriePiedmont, mesic lower slope by floodplain, Apr 2012. MoorePhoto_natural
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