(Printer Friendly Version-pdf-142 KB) (Download a free copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Hierochloe alpina (Sw. ex Willd.) Roemer & J.A. Schultes

Photo: Hierochloe alpina

Alpine Sweet-grass

Habitat: On siliceous rock and dry peat and on mountains [Alpine or subalpine (non-forested, upland)].

Range: Circumboreal, south to alpine areas of New England and New York.

Aids to Identification: Members of the grass family can be difficult to identify without careful examination of microscopic features and knowledge of general groups of species. The grasses of this genus are perennial with fragrant, flat leaf blades and terminal flowering clusters. This species has smooth stems growing in tufts, 20-50 cm high. It has large (6-8 mm long), golden brown spikelets with conspicuous awns (slender bristles) that protrude from the flowers. The spikelets are aggregated into a compact inflorescence 3-5 cm long.

Photo: Hierochloe alpina

Ecological characteristics: This grass has been found in a variety of alpine habitats in Maine, from dry summits to high elevation mossy ravines.

Phenology: Fruits July - August.

Family: Poaceae

Synonyms: Known as Anthoxanthum monticola (Bigelow) Y. Schouten & Veldkamp. Referred to in some very old treatments as Savastana alpina (Sw. ex Willd.) Scribn. and Hierochloe monticola (Bigel.) A. & D. Löve. Maine populations are represented by subspecies orthantha (Sorenson) G. Weim.

Known Distribution in Maine: This rare plant has been documented from a total of 5 town(s) in the following county(ies): Franklin, Oxford, Piscataquis, Somerset.

Dates of documented observations are: 1980, 1984, 1985, 1990, 1994, 1996, 2000, 2002 (2)

Reason(s) for rarity: At southern limit of range.

Conservation considerations: Populations could be threatened by heavy recreational (hiking) use.