Annual

A plant that completes its life cycle and dies within a year.

Perennial

Living through three or more seasons.

Annual

A plant that completes its life cycle and dies within a year.

Perennial

Living through three or more seasons.

Awn

A bristle characteristic of the spikelets in some grasses.

Bunchgrass

Plant has no stolons or Rhizomes and consequently grows in a bunch rather than spreading.

Inflorescence

Flower structure of a grass plant.

Node

A joint where a leaf is or was attached to a stem.

Panicle

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attached to the stem via branches connected to branches off the stem.

Raceme

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attach to the stem via branches.

Spike

A type of flower in which are the flower clusters are attached directly to the stem.

Panicle

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attached to the stem via branches connected to branches off the stem.

Raceme

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attach to the stem via branches.

Spike

A type of flower in which are the flower clusters are attached directly to the stem.

Panicle

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attached to the stem via branches connected to branches off the stem.

Raceme

A type of flower in which the flower clusters are attach to the stem via branches.

Spike

A type of flower in which are the flower clusters are attached directly to the stem.

Prostrate

Growing flat along the ground.

Rhizome

A stem that grows horizontally below the ground surface and may form adventitious roots at the nodes.

Sheath

Base portion of the grass leaf that wraps around the stem.

Stolon

A stem that grows horizontally along the ground surface and may form adventitious roots and a new plant at the nodes.

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Topics : Species and Forage Variety Trials : Identifying Common Pennsylvania Grasses : Identification Matrix

Common Grasses Found in Pennsylvania Hay and Pasture Fields

Please click on the image icon for sample images and mouseover the hightlighted text for definitions.
Grass Species Life Cycle
Plant Height
Sheath Blade Collar Auricles Ligule Stem Inflorescence Comments
Barnyard grass Echinochloa muricata Beauv.
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Annual
1-3 ft.
Overlapping 5-15 mm wide Flat with rough edges Broad None None Round & Branching at Nodes
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Panicle of Spike-like branches
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Found in late summer/early fall. Seed structures purplish and covered with short stiff bristles.
Bermudagrass Cynodon dactylon L.
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Perennial/
Annual
1-2 ft
Papery 8-15 mm wide Hairy on top & bottom Narrow None Fringe of Hairs Prostrate & upright 3-7 Spiked branches originating from a single whorl
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Spreads by both Stolons &.Rhizomes. Found as a Perennial only in very southern PA and further south.
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Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardii Vitman
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Perennial
7-9 ft
Split, hairy 10-14 mm wide Smooth with fringe of hairs at junction of blade and Sheath Narrow None Short membrane Round & upright Raceme, Red in color
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Stems purplish at base. Awns in seed clusters makes Inflorescence look hairy.
Crabgrass (Large) Digitaria sanguinalis L.
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Annual
2-3 ft
Overlapping 5-12 mm wide Rough edges with hairs on both sides Red-purple color Broad & divided None Membrane Rounded at top
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Upright to Prostrate 3-10 Spiked branches in whorls at top of stem Found in late summer/early fall.
Crabgrass (Smooth) Digitaria ischaemum L.
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Annual
1-2 ft
Overlapping 5-12 mm wide with no hairs on either side. More purplish than Large Crabgrass
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Broad & divided None Membrane Rounded at top Upright or Prostrate 3-10 Spiked branches in whorls at top of stem
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Found in lawns or heavily grazed pastures in late summer/early fall.
Fall panicum Panicum dichotomiflorum Michx.
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Annual
1-4 ft
Overlapping 10-20 mm wide Smooth or sparsely hairy near base Broad None Fringe of hairs
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Upright to Prostrate Fine, wide-spreading Panicle
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Found in late summer/early fall.
Giant foxtail Setaria faberi.
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Annual
3-6 ft
Overlapping Edges are hairy 10-20 mm wide Hairy on top & smooth on bottom Broad & hairy on edges None Fringe of hairs Round & upright Spike-like Panicle, bristly, drooping
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Inflorescence bushy like a fox's tail. Hairy blade is key to identification.
Green foxtail Setaria viridis L.

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Annual
1-3 ft
Overlapping Edges are hairy
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5-12 mm wide Not hairy on top or bottom Broad & sometimes hairy
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None Fringe of hairs
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Round & upright Spike-like Panicle, bristly
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Inflorescence bushy like a fox's tail and slightly purple in color. No hairs on leaves.

Italian ryegrass Lolium italicum Parn.
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Annual-to-
Perennial
1-2 ft
Overlapping 2-6 mm wide Flat & pointed at tip. Waxy May be divided Overlapping Membrane, Rounded at top Round-to-flat Slender stiff Spike with Awns
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Short growing Bunchgrass with waxy leaves that are shiny. Spikelet edge against stem.
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Kentucky bluegrass Poa pratenis L.
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Perennial
1-2 ft
Split 2-5 mm wide Boat-shaped tip
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Broad None Very short membrane
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Round-to-flat Fine-Panicle
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Sod -grass (short Rhizomes) Dark green. Invades overgrazed pastures
Nimblewill Muhlenbergia schreberi Gmel.
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Perennial
1-2 ft
Split & overlapping 2-4 mm wide Rough on top with hairs behind ligule Narrow None Short Membrane Mostly Prostrate Many fine, slender Panicles
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Sod-forming (Stolons). Flowers in late summer to early fall.
Orchardgrass Dactylis glomerata L.
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Perennial
1-3 ft
Split 5-12 mm wide V-shaped at base Flat & pointed at tip Broad & Divided None White membrane Pointed at top
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Flat
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Course-Panicle
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Bunchgrass Light green in color
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Perennial ryegrass Lolium perenne L.
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Perennial
1-2 ft.
Overlapping 2-6 mm wide Folded in shoot V-shaped, Waxy Narrow May be divided Short
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Membrane Toothed at top Round-to-flat Slender stiff Spike No Awns
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Short growing Bunchgrass with waxy leaves that are shiny. Spikelet placed with edge against stem.
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Quackgrass Elytrigia repens.
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Perennial
1-3 ft
Overlapping with hairs 5-10 mm wide Slightly hairy on upper surface Broad & divided Long-clasping
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Short membrane Round Slender stiff Spike
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Sod forming with prominent fast spreading
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Rhizomes. Spikelet flat against stem
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Red top Agrostis gigantea Roth
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Perennial
1-3 ft
Overlapping 2-7 mm wide Flat Broad & V-shaped None Tall membrane
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Round Panicle Rust colored at maturity
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Sod-grass (short Rhizomes). Prominent ridges on upper surface of blade.
Reed canarygrass Phalaris arundinacea L.
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Perennial
1-6 ft
Overlapping 10-20 mm wide Flat with rough edges
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Narrow & continuous Yellow None Prominent membrane
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Round Panicle
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Sod forming (prominent Rhizomes).
Smooth bromegrass Bromus inermis L.
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Perennial
1-3 ft
Closed
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4-12 mm wide Flat & pointed at tip Narrow & divided None Short membrane Round Large Panicle, often drooping
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Young plants may have pubescence on Sheath. Rhizomes covered with brown papery scales.
Switchgrass Panicum virgatum L.
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Perennial
3-8 ft
Split, with hairy margin 7-14 mm wide Hairy on top Broad, often with hairs None Fringe of short Hairs Round & upright Large Panicle
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Leaves covered with hairs. Spreads by Rhizomes
Tall Fescue Festuca arundinacea Schreb.
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Perennial
1-3 ft
Overlapping 5-10 mm wide Dark green Very rough edges
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Broad & divided. Wrinkled on edges Blunt with few hairs
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Short membrane Round Spreading Panicle
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Bunchgrass Prominently veined, leathery, dark green leaves with rough edges.
Timothy Phleum pretense L.
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Perennial
2-3 ft
Overlapping 4-12 mm wide Flat & pointed at tip Broad & continuous
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None White membrane with two notches Round Spike-like Panicle
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Bunchgrass with corms (onion-like bulb at base of stem)
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Witchgrass Panicum capillare L.
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Annual
1-3 ft
Overlapping, hairy
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8-15 mm wide Hairy on top & bottom Narrow None Fringe of hairs
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Round & upright Large Panicle
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Leaves covered with hairs. Large Panicle often breaking off of stem.
Yellow foxtail Setaria glauca.
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Annual
1-3 ft
Overlapping Not hairy 5-10 mm wide Hairy only on top near base of blade
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Broad & hairy on edges None Fringe of hairs Round & upright Spike-like Panicle, bristly
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Inflorescence is bushy like a fox's tail. Hairs only on upper surface of blade near base.