Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Early Bluegrass - Poa cuspidata   Nuttall
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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AuthorNuttall
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, except 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
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