Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bent-awn Plumegrass - Erianthus contortus   Elliott
Members of Poaceae:
Members of Erianthus with account distribution info or public map:
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Section 5 » Family Poaceae
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DistributionCoastal Plain, Sandhills, and Piedmont. Gaps will be filled with additional collecting. Apparently absent in the mountains.

DE to TN and OK, south to FL and TX.
AbundanceCommon, except uncommon to infrequent in the western part of the Piedmont. May form huge populations on roadside banks. This is clearly an S5 species.
HabitatMixed pine-hardwood woodlands, openings in mixed forests, clearings, powerlines, roadsides.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting July-October.
IdentificationFrom E. alopecuroides, it differs in the rather glabrous inflorescence rachis (vs. densely pubescent in that species) and in a shorter beard at the base of a spikelet (3-7 mm long vs. 9-14 mm long in E. alopecuroides). From E. coarctatus and E. giganteus it differs in having awns spirally coiled at the base (vs. straight or merely curved in those two species).
Taxonomic CommentsSome authors, such as FNA, treat it as a variety or subspecies of E. brevibarbis. Some references name it as Saccharum contortum.

Plumegrasses are among our tallest grasses; several species reach 7-8 feet tall. The narrowly to broadly elliptical inflorescences stand erect well beyond the long, arching leaves. For proper ID, it is best to use mature spikelets. When immature, the inflorescences are tightly compact and slender; when mature, they relax and become elliptical in outline, and individual spikelets can be seen. Do not confuse these natives with the alien invasive Phragmites australis, which has much broader leaves and whose inflorescence branches are mostly swept to one side.
Other Common Name(s)None
State RankS4 [S5]
Global RankG5
State Status
US Status
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B.A. SorrieSlope beside Glendon-Carthage Road, abundant, late Oct 2015. MoorePhoto_natural

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