Culms 12-110 cm; lower nodes glabrous or pubescent. Lower sheaths glabrous or pubescent, not ciliate; ligulesof lower leaves 1-6.5 mm, scarious, usually acute, sometimes trun-cate, often lacerate; ligulesof upper leaves to 7 mm; blades 0.5-4 mm wide, usually invol-ute. Panicles 10-32 cm, contracted. Glumes 16-35 mm, 3-5-veined; lower glumes 18-35 mm; upper glumes 1-3 mm shorter; florets 7-13 mm; calluses 2-4 mm; lemmas evenly pubescent, hairs about 1 mm, white, sometimes glabrous immediately above the callus; awns 65-225 mm, first 2 segments scabrous to strigose, hairs shorter than 1 mm, terminal segment scabridulous.
Hesperostipa comata is found primarily in the cool deserts, grasslands, and pinyon-juniper forests of western North America. The two subspecies overlap geographically, but are only occasionally sympatric. Both are primarily cleistogamous.
Tufted, 4-10 dm; sheaths glabrous or nearly so, the upper often inflated over the base of the panicle; ligule 2-5 mm; blades smooth or scaberulous, 1-3 mm wide, usually involute; panicle narrow, 2-3.5 dm, the ascending branches each with 1-few spikelets; glumes 15-35 mm, tapering to a long filiform point; mature lemma 9-14 mm, pale brown, villous at base, villosulous to glabrate above, its awn 9-16 cm, very slender, loosely flexuous or coiled, obscurely once geniculate; 2n=44, 46. Dry plains and prairies, often in sandy soil; widespread in the w. cordillera, extending e. across the Great Plains to Minn. and Io., and irregularly to Mich. and n. Ind. (Hesperostipa c.)
Gleason, Henry A. & Cronquist, Arthur J. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. lxxv + 910 pp.
Common Name: needle and thread Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Graminoid General: Perennial bunchgrass with stems 12-110 cm tall, lower nodes glabrous or pubescent. Vegetative: Lower sheaths glabrous or pubescent, blades 0.5-4 mm wide, tightly involute, with ligules of the lower leaves 1-6.5 mm, scarious, acute, often lacerate, with upper ligules to 7 mm. Inflorescence: Contracted and narrow panicles 10-32 cm, glumes subequal 16-35 mm, 3-5 veined, lower glumes 18-35 mm, upper glumes 1-3 mm shorter, florets 7-13 mm, lemma straw-colored or occasionally brownish, hairs about 1 mm, white, sometimes glabrous immediately above the callus with awns 6.5-23 cm, twice-geniculate, first two segments scabrous to strigose, hairs shorter than 1 mm, terminal segment minutely roughened. Ecology: Found on sandy or rocky soils from 3,500-7,500 ft (1067-2286 m); flowers May-July. Notes: Distinctive with the length of the awns and the way the stems tend to curve over at anthesis. Ethnobotany: The straight fruits were used as play arrows by children. Etymology: Hesperostipa means western Stipa, while comata means finished with a tuft. Synonyms: None Editor: SBuckley, 2010