Wiregrass

Aristida stricta
Family: Poaceae

Natural History
Thin flowerstalks and leaves of wiregrass
Photo credit: Karan A. Rawlins, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org

Wiregrass, also called pineland threeawn, is one of the most common grasses in the southern pine flatwoods and upland sandhills.

It is a favorite food of gopher tortoises and quail and provides valuable cover for many birds, reptiles, and small mammals. The young plants may also be used as a forage by livestock.

This is a fast-growing species that regenerates quickly after fires. The plant depends on regular summer burning in order to stimulate flowering and seed production.

Wiregrass is often confused with a similar plant, piney woods dropseed (Sporobolus junceus), which also has long, thin, wiry leaves. However, wiregrass has small tufts of hair at the leaf base; the dropseed stems are smooth and hairless.

Wiregrass is limited to the southeastern United States. It ranges from Mississippi to Florida but only as far north as South Carolina.


 

Identifying Characteristics

Habitat: Wiregrass grows prolifically in flatwoods and dry sandhills. It is a common understory cover in longleaf pine forests and on newly burned sites.
Size/Form: Wiregrass is a perennial bunchgrass that grows in dense, spreading tufts, reaching heights of 1½' to 3'.
Leaves: The leaves are long, thin, wiry, or needle-like with tufts of fine, white fuzz around the leaf base. Margins are rolled inward.
Flowers: Wiregrass flowers are tiny and close to the flower stalk with 3 distinct hair-like awns protruding from each flower.
Fruit: The fruit is a tiny, yellowish grain containing a single seed.

 

Images

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