Family: Grass Family (Gramineae)
Origin and Distribution: Deer-tongue grass is a native species that occurs in the eastern half of the U.S. It is common in the eastern half of Ohio, and occurs sporadically in the western half. Deer-tongue grass grows best in damp sandy soil, although it is tolerant of drier environments, and can be found in marshy ground, thickets, gardens, wood margins, stream banks, roadsides, and shorelines.
Plant Description: Deer-tongue grass is a wide-leaved, clump-forming perennial grass, characterized by stiff leaves and long, bristly leaf sheaths, some of which pull away from the stem at a characteristic angle. This species reproduces by seed, and often forms large clumps.
- Root system - The root system is composed of thickened root stalks.
- Stems - Stems are erect, hairy, round and covered with minute bumps. The stems often branch from the upper joints (nodes), and grow 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet tall (sometimes up to 5 feet).
- Leaves - The leaf blade (free part of the leaf) is stiff, strongly veined, 4 to 8 inches long (sometimes up to 12 inches) and broad (3/4 to 1 1/4 inches wide), tapering to a point. Both upper and lower leaf surfaces are smooth, but the leaf margins are rough. The base of the blade (where it meets the stem) is heart-shaped. Leaf sheaths (part of the leaf surrounding the stem) are round, and those of the lower and middle leaves are long and covered with short, bristle-like hairs. Sheaths often pull away from the stem at a characteristic 45-degree angle to 90-degree angle. The ligule (projection inside on the top of the sheath) is short (1/32 inch long) and membranous, with a fringe of minute hairs. Auricles (appendages at the top of the sheath) are absent.
- Flowers - Small, oval flowers are borne on fine stalks in an open, sparse, branched flower head, 3 to 6 inches long. Flower heads that are produced in late summer and fall are often almost completely enclosed within the leaf sheaths.
- Fruits & Seeds - Seeds are smooth and 1/10 inch long.
Biology: Flowering occurs from May to September. Deer-tongue grass often forms large patches of stiff foliage that persist through winter.
Toxicity: None known.
Facts and Folklore:
- Deer-tongue grass got its common name because the wide, stiff leaf blades resemble a deer's tongue, especially when the leaf sheath pulls away from the stem, often causing the blade to point down.