Densely tufted perennial 3-12 dm; lvs mostly below the middle of the stem, the blades flat or folded, 1-5 mm wide, ligules often elongate to 3-12 mm; infl loose and open to narrow and contracted, the lower branches in fascicles of 2-5; spikelets purplish or silvery, 2.3-5.7 mm, the first glume 2-5.1 mm, the second 2.7-5.3 mm, acute or obtuse and often erose-tipped; rachilla prolonged one-fourth to one-half the length of the upper floret; lemmas glabrous, usually truncate and 4- toothed, the awn attached below the middle, straight or nearly so, from shorter than to barely exceeding the lemma; palea bifid, anthers 1.3-2.3 mm; 2n=24-28, 52, 56. Wet or boggy ground; circumboreal, s. to N.J., W.Va., N.C., Ill., Minn., and Ariz. A complex sp., the vars. not yet well understood.
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
FNA 2007, Field Guide to Forest & Mtn. Plants of N AZ 2009, Utah Flora 1983; Ann. Checklist GCNP 1987
Common Name: tufted hairgrass Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Graminoid General: Widespread densely to loosely clumped slender cool season bunchgrass with stems to 150 cm tall and a loosely branched, open panicle with 2 florets per spikelet. Vegetative: Blades mostly basal, 5-30 cm long, 1-4 mm wide, some flat but most rolled with a 1 mm diameter; adaxial surfaces with 5-11 ribs; stems erect, 35-150 cm tall; mostly scabrous; ligules 3-8 mm long,narrow, often with an irregularly toothed margin. Inflorescence: Panicles 8-30 cm long, usually open and pyramid-shaped, sometimes narrowly elongate, often nodding; branches straight and hair-like; spikelets 2-7 mm long, narrowly oblong, laterally compressed, usually bisexual with 2 florets, silver colored with a purple tinge; glumes 3-7 mm long, 1-3 veined, lanceolate; lemmas 2-5 mm, thin,smooth, and shiny, usually with awns 1-8 mm long arising at the middle or lower end of the glume; awns either straight or bent and sometimes longer than glumes; anthers 1-3 mm long. Ecology: Found in wet meadows and in sand and gravel along rivers, streams and lakes at at 5000-13,000 ft. (1500-4000 m); flowers June-September. Distribution: Found in the western, northern, and northeastern United States. Notes: Is strongly polymorphic, with the overlapping diagnostic features within different subspecies in the United States. Differentiated from D. sukatschewii by having basal blades with 5-11 ribs, vs 3-5 ribs. Differentiated from D. brevifolia by having spikelets that do not overlap and that are not in dense clusters. Prefers poorly drained soils. Provides forage for elk. Ethnobotany: Seeds used for food. Helpful in stabilizing disturbed sites. Good forage for sheep and cattle. Etymology: Deschampsia is named after the French botanist Louis Auguste Deschamps, who lived from 1766-1842, while caespitosa means having densely clumped or tufted growth. Editor: LKearsley, 2012
From Flora of Indiana (1940) by Charles C. Deam
I found this species to be a frequent grass in very marly soil in the outlet of a marly, springy place about 6 miles southwest of South Bend, St. Joseph County, and in a cold, marly, springy place on the border of Mill Creek about a mile north of Mill Creek, La Porte County. Only a few plants were seen at the latter station. Bradner reported this species from Steuben County and his determination was, no doubt, correct, but no specimen has been seen.