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Key E: Monocotyledon (Grasses and Rush-like Plants) Families and Genera


Plant consisting of a tussock of hard, smooth, flat, basal leaves and stem-less, dense flower clustersMat-rushes (Lomandra)
Mat-rush Family (Xanthorrhoeceae)
1Plant with flower-heads on distinct culms (stems) or stalks2
2Tall reed-like plant to 4 m high with many, small, densely congested flowers in a velvety brown, cylindrical flower-head on leafy and pithy culms; leaves long, more or less erect, flat, often spongy, in two rows overlapping at the base Cumbungi (Typha)
Bull-rush Family (Typhaceae)
2Flower-heads and leaves not entirely as above3
3Flower-head on a soft and fleshy scape (a leafless flower stalk growing from the base of the plant); fruits green, smooth and globular Arrow-grasses and Water-ribbons (Triglochin)
Water-ribbon Family (Juncaginaceae)a
3Flower-head on a non-fleshy culm (an aerial stem terminating in a flower-head); fruits becoming brownish, reddish or blackish with maturity and contained within scarious (dry and membranous ) bracts (modified leaves at the base of flower-heads or clusters), glumes (tiny bracts enclosing or subtending (attached below) individual flowers or spikelets (group of flowers) or perianth segments (modified flower parts)4
4Leaves appear to be absent (actually reduced to a tubular sheath with a minute apical point); culm with a single, bractless, terminal, erect, tapering cylindrical spikelet consisting of a few to many flowers Spike-rushes (Eleocharis)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
4Plants not entirely as above5
5Leaves appear to be absent (actually reduced to a tubular sheath with a minute apical point); culm with a single, bractless, terminal, erect, tapering cylindrical spikelet consisting of a few to many flowers Spike-rushes (Eleocharis)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
5Culms distinctly angular or at least partially so or with distinct edges 6
5Culms more or less terete (cylindrical in cross-section)10
6Culms and leaves narrowly biconvex (lens-shaped in cross-section)Sword-sedges (Lepidosperma)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
6Culms (and often leaf bases) angular (often triangular): Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)7
7Pistil (female part of the flower) enclosed in an utricle (a bottle-shaped, bladder-like sac), giving a swollen appearance to each flower; flower-heads usually consist of one or more spikes (i.e. individual flowers are stalkless) Sedges (Carex)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
7Pistil not enclosed in an utricle; flower-heads usually consist of spikelet clusters8
8Culms with several nodes along its length (swellings from which new leaves and stems arise)Club-rushes (Bolboschoenus)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
8Culms without nodes 9
9Spikelets flattened or terete with flowers arranged in two opposite rows; flower-heads subtended by a number of bracts, of which 2-3 (up to 10) generally exceed it in lengthFlat-sedges (Cyperus)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
9Spikelets cylindrical with flowers arranged spirally; flower-heads subtended by one main culm-like bract Club-rushes (Schoenoplectus)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
10Each flower consisting of six, firm, pointed, perianth segments; leaves present and very similar to flowering culms or reduced to cataphylls (very short basal points); culms pithy or partially so Rushes (Juncus)
Rush Family (Juncaeae)
10Each flower subtended by one or two glumes; leaves present and stem clasping or reduced to sheaths or basal scales; culms solid or hollow but not pithy 11
11Culms solid; the margins (edges) of leaf sheaths fused (unless reduced to basal scales); each flower subtended by a single glume and flower clusters or spikelets subtended by one or more leafy bracts: Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)12
11Culms hollow; margins of leaf sheaths usually free (unfused)2; individual flowers enclosed by a pair of glumes (lemma and palea)3 and flower clusters or spikelets enclosed by a further pair (or one in a few genera) of glumes (outer glumes): Grass Family (Poaceae)16
12Leaves flat, channelled or inrolled 13
12Leaves angular or terete (sometimes flattened towards the tip) 14
13Tall plant, greater than 100 cm tall, often in large tussocks; fruit without subtending bristlesSaw-sedges (Gahnia)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
13Plant usually less than 40 cm tall but some near-coastal species may be up to 90 cm; fruit subtended by up to 6 bristles Bog-rushes (Schoenus)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
14Plant to 100 cm tall; flower-head a dense globular or hemispherical cluster, subtended and exceeded by a single, pungent (sharply pointed) bract; leaves reduced to sheaths onlyKnobby Club-rushes (Ficinia)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
14Plant not entirely as above 15
15Small plant, often less than 20 cm tall (sometimes to 50 cm in Isolepis inundata); culms non-rigid (not stiff); flower-head consisting of a single or multiple, elliptical and sometimes strongly flattened spikelet/s, generally subtended by a single leaf- or glume-like bract; leaves reduced to more or less terete blades less than 4 cm long or to leaf sheaths only Club-rushes (Isolepis)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
15Plant usually from 20-100 cm tall; culms rigid; flower-head consisting of clusters of spikelets, subtended by culm-like bracts; leaves reduced to flattened points or culm-like, angled or flattened, reaching or exceeding culmsTwig-rushes (Baumea)
Sedge Family (Cyperaceae)
16Large and tall reed-like grass with broad, flat leaves and softly hairy, open and slightly drooping flower-heads; flowers surrounded by long silky hairs Common Reed (Phragmites)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
16Plant not as above17
17Tough plant of sand dunes with long creeping rhizomes and silvery-grey leaves; male and female flowers on separate plants – males in clusters of racemes (non-branched flower-head or inflorescence with shortly stalked flowers) and females in clusters of individuals, each at the base of a long stout bristle and collectively forming a globular head of spikes that act like a tumble-weed when mature and broken freeSpinifex (Spinifex)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
17Plants not as above18
18Flowers in a loosely clustered to open panicle (severally branched inflorescence with distinctly stalked spikelets) 19
18Flowers in a raceme (shortly stalked flowers), spike (non-stalked flowers) or spike-like (congested and indistinct raceme or panicle) inflorescence or in a dense or reduced panicle of racemes, spikes or lobes36
19Spikelet (group of flowers subtended by a pair of glumes) with a single flower (floret)20
19Spikelet with two or more florets22
20Floret firm with a straight, curved or bent, stout bristle (awn) at the apex (several times its body length) and with a sharply pointed base (callus) Spear-grasses (Austrostipa)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
20Floret soft (until seed matured) without an awn or if awned, then the awn fine to fragile and the callus not sharp 21
21Palea3 absent or less than three-quarters of the lemma3 length; callus without hairs (glabrous); lemmas glabrous and rarely awned Bent-grasses (Agrostis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
21Palea more than three-quarters of the lemma length; callus hairy; lemmas hairy or glabrous and usually awned but not always conspicuously so Blown-grasses (Lachnagrostis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)d
22Florets unawned 23
22Florets awned29
23Leaves infolded and sharply pointed, in two regular opposite rows Salt-grasses (Distichlis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
23Leaves not sharp or if pointed, not in two regular opposite rows 24
24Spikelets minute (1-1.5 mm long), with only two florets Small Hair-grasses (Molineriella)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
24Spikelets at least 3 mm long, with 3 to many florets 25
25Spikelets shaped like a pendant or broad shell with overlapping scales (actually each a floret) hanging from slender drooping stalks Quaking-grasses (Briza)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
25Spikelets not as above 26
26Ligule (appendage at the top of the leaf-sheath at its junction with the blade) consists of a row of fine hairs Love-grasses (Eragrostis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
26Ligule membranous (may be very short)27
27Lemma with a dorsal keel (ridge like a boat’s keel); leaves with a keeled tip Tussock-grasses (Poa)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
27Lemma rounded on the back; leaves not keeled at tip28
28Leaf-sheath open to the base (grasses of salt-water)Saltmarsh-grasses (Puccinellia)
Grass Family (Poaceae)e
28Leaf-sheath closed toward the base (grasses of fresh-water) Sweet-grasses (Glyceria)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
29Spikelets with two or occasionally three florets30
29Spikelets usually with at least five florets 33
30Spikelets large (20-30 mm long) and drooping; awns long (25-40 mm) becoming black with maturity (note: cultivated oats are awnless)Oats (Avena)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
30Spikelets small (less than 5 mm long)31
31Grasses to at least 40 cm tall; inflorescence a dense panicle, becoming lobed or loosely open with maturity, pinkish- to purplish-green when immature becoming yellowish-white when mature; spikelets on relatively short stalksFogs (Holcus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
31mall grasses to 20 cm tall; inflorescence an open panicle; spikelets on relatively long stalks 32
32Leaves covered in soft hairs; lemmas 3-awned, the middle awn longer than the laterals and bent False Hair-grasses (Pentaschistis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
32Leaves hairless; at least one lemma in a spikelet with a single awn Hair-grasses (Aira)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
33Ligule consists of a row of fine hairs; inflorescence a dense panicle when immature, becoming loosely open with maturity; lemma backs hairy or with rows of hairsWallaby-grasses (Rytidosperma)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
33Ligule membranous; inflorescence a more or less open panicle with relatively long spikelet stalks; lemma backs hairless or very shortly and softly hairy 34
34Lemma 4-toothed or bristled at the apex and with a relatively long, bent or wavy awn; florets are readily shed when nearing maturity Swamp Wallaby-grasses (Amphibromus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
34Lemma not distinctly toothed at the apex; awns very short to long but straight or evenly curved; florets are not shed until very mature 35
35Lower leaf-sheaths with soft hairs Bromes (Bromus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
35Lower leaf-sheaths hairless or with a few scattered hairs when young Fescues (Festuca)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
36Inflorescence consisting of two or more spikes, spike-like racemes, racemes or very congested raceme-like panicle branches 37
36Inflorescence consisting of a single spike, raceme or congested (or lobed) panicle 43
37Inflorescence of digitate (radiating like fingers from the tip of the flowering culm) spikes or spike-like racemes 38
37Inflorescence with non-digitate branches 41
38Spikelets in pairs, one slightly stalked Finger-grasses (Digitaria)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
38Spikelets non-paired, arranged in two rows along one side of the inflorescence branch39
39Spikelet 2-3 mm long with a single floret Couch (Cynodon)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
39Spikelet greater than 3 mm with 2-several florets40
40Spikelets flattened from the sides (laterally)Umbrella-grasses (Chloris)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
40Spikelets flattened from the back (dorsally) Spider-grasses (Enteropogon)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
41Spikelets crowded, in pairs or small clusters; lemma abruptly tapering into a apical point Barnyard-grasses (Echinochloa)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
41Spikelets single, densely or loosely arranged; lemma without an abruptly pointed apex 42
42Branches of inflorescence terminating in a slender bristle Summer-grasses (Paspalidium)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
42Branches of inflorescence terminating in a spikelet Paspalums (Paspalum)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
43Inflorescences are spikes or spike-like racemes44
43Inflorescences are congested panicles (i.e. they are branched, even if those branches are very short) 49
44Spikelets are fully sunk into recesses in the inflorescence stalk (rachis), the glumes only opening at flowering 45
44Spikelets are at least partly free of the rachis46
45Spikelet with two outer glumesBarb-grasses (Parapholis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)f
45Spikelet with one outer glumeBarb-grasses (Hainardia)
Grass Family (Poaceae)f
46Inflorescence cylindrical; spikelets in threes with long awns on both the outer glumes and lemmasBarley-grasses (Hordeum)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
46Inflorescence narrow or flattened; spikelets arising singly; if awns present, then relatively short 47
47Spikelets are orientated with their thin edge adjacent the rachis Rye-grasses (Lolium)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
47Spikelets are orientated with their broad edge adjacent to the rachis 48
48Plants long rhizomatousCouch (Elytrigia)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
48Plants tufted or shortly rhizomatousWheat-grasses (Lophopyrum)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
49Spikelets with a single floret 50
49Spikelets with more than one floret 55
50Outer glumes without hairs (on their outer surface), bristles or awns 51
50Outer glumes with hairs, bristles and/or awns 53
51Inflorescence a congested or lobed panicle (often with several whorls of branches) Water-bent (Polypogon viridis)
Grass Family (Poaceae)h
51Inflorescence a dense cylindrical panicle (sometimes with an occasional branch discernible) 52
52Inflorescence less than 10 mm wide, becoming dark slate grey at maturity before turning straw coloured with age; spikelets completely stalkless; outer glumes distinctly unequal in length Couch and Rat-tail Grasses (Sporobolus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
52Inflorescence 10-30 mm wide, becoming yellowish-green before turning straw coloured with age; spikelets with at least short stalks; outer glumes subequal (the same or almost so) in length (grasses of beach dunes)Marram Grasses (Ammophila)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
53Inflorescence a dense globular to ovoid panicle becoming soft grey with age; outer glumes narrow and pointed, covered with long hairs; lemma 3-awned Hares-tail (Lagurus ovatus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
53Inflorescence, spikelet and lemma not as above 54
54Outer glumes with long awns and with ciliate hairs or inflated bristles along their keelsBeard-grasses (Polypogon)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
54Outer glumes awnless and with soft hairs along their keels Fox-tails (Alopecurus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
55Ligule consists of a row of fine hairs or a ciliate (stiff hairs like eye lashes) rim56
55Ligule membranous or papery 57
56Lemmas with a long bent awn arising between two fine bristle-tipped lobes; lemma backs hairy or with tufts of hairs in rows Wallaby-grasses (Rytidosperma)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
56Lemmas awnless or with a very short awn or point; lemma with pointed or club-shaped hairs along the lower margins Desmazeria (Tribolium)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
57Spikelets arranged on one-side of the inflorescence-stalk (rachis); outer glumes very unequal in length; lemma with a relatively long awn Silver-grasses (Vulpia)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
57Spikelets not entirely as above58
58Lemmas unawned; spikelets strongly laterally flattened; leaves hairless (glabrous) Canary-grasses (Phalaris)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
58Lemmas awned; spikelets laterally flattened but not strongly so; leaves often hairy 59
59Inflorescence a dense panicle, usually becoming lobed or loosely open with maturity, pinkish- to purplish-green when immature becoming yellowish-white when very mature Fogs (Holcus)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
59Inflorescence a dense to contracted panicle, not or hardly opening with maturity, green to dark-green when mature becoming yellow-green when very mature 60
60Spikelets more than 5 mm long; the longer awn bent; crushed leaves are coumarin-scented Vernal-grasses (Anthoxanthum)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
60Spikelets less than 5 mm long; awns straight or slightly curved; crushed leaves are not strongly scented61
61Outer glumes subequal (the same length or almost so) Cats-tails (Rostraria)
Grass Family (Poaceae)
61Outer glumes very unequal (the lower minute and bristle-like)Avellinia (Avellinia michelii)
Grass Family (Poaceae)

aWater Ribbons (Triglochin procerum) and similar species (e.g. T. alcockiae and T. multifructum) has a flower-head to 50 cm long and 2-4 cm diameter, consisting of up to 200 small and congested flowers, each with six lilac-white styles arranged in a star; leaves flat, more than 5 mm wide, long and strap or ribbon-like while Streaked Arrow-grass (Triglochin striata) and similar species (T. centrocarpum and T. calcitrapum) has a flower-head less than 15 cm long and less than 1 cm wide, usually consisting of 50-100 (or less) loosely arranged inconspicuous flowers (and subsequent fruits); leaves terete, narrow (less than 1-3 mm dia.)
bAn exception to unfused or open leaf sheath margins is Australian Sweet-grass (Glyceria australis).
cOf the two inner glumes (lemma and palea) of a grass floret, the lemma is the larger and firmer of the two and often supports one or more bristles or awns.
dSee Key to Blown-grass species for further detail.
eSee Key to Puccinellia for further detail.
fSee Key to Barb-grasses for further detail.
gSee Notes on spikelet differences in Barley-grass species for further detail.
hAs for other Polypogon spp., lemmas and paleas of Polypogon viridis are subequal and mature florets are shed with the outer glumes attached but glumes and lemmas are unawned and glabrous as for Agrostis. As a consequence, this species has been included within both genera at different stages of its taxonomic history.

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