Pictured from left to right: Echinochloa crusgalli (2 photos) and Echinochloa muricata
This genus is characterized by spikelets with 2 florets, the lower sterile, the upper fertile. The glumes and sterile lemma have stout hairs, often with glandular or bulbous bases. The second glume and sterile lemma are similar in size and appearance, although the lemma may have a longer awn. The fertile floret is hardened, smooth and shiny. Ligules are absent, at least in our species.
Echinochloa crusgalli (ee ki no klo’ ah crus gal’ lee)
- Synonyms: Echinochloa pungens
- Common names: barnyard grass
- Origin and habitat: Introduced from Europe early in the last century; dry to moist roadsides, edges of crop fields, empty lots, and other disturbed places.
- Identifying characters: Annual plants with broad leaves that have prominent midribs; sheaths are keeled. Fertile lemmas have a dull-colored tip separated from the main glossy body by a minute line of hairs. Awns on the glumes and lemmas can be of variable length (nearly awnless to 20 mm long but usually under 2 mm).
- Comments: This species had been touted at one time for forage and for waterfowl plantings though now it is widely considered a weed. “Japanese millet”, a form with deep purplish, awnless spikelets can sometimes be found and is known as var. furmentacea.
Echinochloa muricata (ee ki no klo' ah mur ih kay' tah)
- Synonyms: None
- Common names: barnyard grass, wild millet
- Origin and habitat: Native; moist to wet habitats, frequently along streams and lakes, sometimes weedy
- Identifying characters: Plants are annuals with broad leaves and, sometimes, decumbent stems. Leaf sheaths are keeled; often the lower portion of the blade as well. The awn on the sterile lemma can be as much as 15 mm long and several to many of the larger hairs on the spikelets are bulbous-based.
- Comments: This species is easily confused with the introduced barnyard grass. The latter has spikelets with fewer bulbous-based hairs and has a microscopic fringe of hairs near the apex of the fertile lemma. Our native species also tends to have a more open inflorescence due to the branches being widely spreading. The decumbent nature of the plants also help distinguish it.
Additional Species in Minnesota:
Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.