Grasses & Sedges

Species are listed by scientific name. 
An asterisk indicates a non-native species.

Follow this link to the iNaturalist field guide to Grasses and Sedges of Winnebago County!

Species Scientific Name
Quack Grass* Agropyron repens
Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardi
Little Bluestem Andropogon scoparius
Sideoats Grama Grass Bouteloua curtipendula
Brome Grass Bromus purgers
Pennsylvania Sedge Carex pensylvanica
Crabgrass* Digitaria ischaemum
Slender Wild Rye Elymus villosus
Foxtail Barley Hordeum jubatum
Bottlebrush Grass Hystrix patula
Rush Juncus sp.
Panic Grass Panicum lanuginosum
Panic Grass Panicum sp.
Reed Canary Grass* Phalaris arundinacea
Timothy* Phleum pretense
Canada Bluegrass* Poa compressa
Bluegrass Poa palustris
Beak-rush Rhynchospora sp.
Bulrush Scirpus atrovirens
Foxtail Grass* Setaria lutescens
Sporobolus Sporobolus asper
Purpletop Tridens flava

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) is a dominant grass in the Severson Dells Prairie, towering up to ten feet in height. Its long, slender stems are a silver-blue in the summer, and its leaves begin the summer in a muted green. Seed heads- three inches in length and in varying shades of bronze, purple, and green- also sprout in the summer. As the summer progresses, the leaves develop a reddish tinge and eventually fade to copper in the fall. With an extensive rhizome network, these plants are incredibly hardy and quickly fill an area with colonies of clumps or bunches. Due to its density, once Big bluestem is established other plants struggle to take hold. This plant is found in a vast majority of the United States, but is largely shade intolerant and struggles in bottomland environments.

Bottlebrush (Elymus hystrix) is one of the easily identifiable grasses at Severson Dells Nature Center. It manifests itself in partially shaded, rocky, and wet soil, so it is often found alongside trails and on the edge of woods. Bottlebrush actively grows in the cool spring temperatures, reaching two and a half to four and a half feet in height. It grows distinct terminal spike seedheads, which are six to ten inches in length and feature bristly-looking flower heads that reach an inch in length. These bristles are the namesake of Bottlebrush, as they make the grass resemble a brush used to clean bottles.

Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) is a common prairie grass in Northern Illinois, reaching heights of three to eight feet tall. It blooms in late summer and early fall, its spikelets turning golden-tawny during the blooming period. Leaves begin the summer as a blue green and shift golden yellow in the fall. This shade-intolerant plant usually forms stands in a variety of prairies.