13.020   PHALARIS L.

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Mary E. Barkworth

Plants annual or perennial; cespitose or not, sometimes rhizomatous. Culms 4-230 cm tall, sometimes swollen at the base, not branching above the base. Leaves more or less evenly distributed, glabrous; sheaths open for most of their length, uppermost sheaths often somewhat inflated; auricles absent; ligules hyaline, truncate to acuminate, entire or lacerate, glabrous; blades usually flat, sometimes revolute. Inflorescences terminal panicles, sometimes spikelike, ovoid to cylindrical, dense, sometimes interrupted, with 10-200 spikelets borne singly or in clusters, the spikelets homogamous in species with single spikelets, heterogamous in species with the spikelets in clusters, the lower spikelets in the clusters staminate (rarely sterile), the terminal spikelets bisexual or pistillate. Spikelets pedicellate, homomorphic, laterally compressed, with 1-3(4) florets, only the terminal (or only) floret reproductively functional, the lower floret(s), if present, sterile; disarticulation in species with single spikelets above the glumes, the florets falling together or, in species with clustered spikelets, usually at the base of the spikelet clusters, sometimes beneath the bisexual or pistillate spikelets. Glumes equal or almost so, exceeding the florets, 1-5-veined, keeled, keels often conspicuously winged; lower (sterile) florets reduced, varying from knoblike projections on the calluses of the terminal florets to linear or lanceolate lemmas less than 3/4 as long as the terminal florets; terminal florets usually bisexual, pistillate, or staminate, rarely sterile, in the lower spikelets of a spikelet cluster; lemmas of terminal florets coriaceous to indurate, shiny, glabrous or pubescent, inconspicuously 5-veined, acute to acuminate or beaked, unawned; paleas similar to the lemmas in length and texture, enclosed by the lemmas at maturity, 1-veined, mostly glabrous, veins shortly hairy; lodicules absent or 2 and reduced; anthers 3; ovaries glabrous; styles 2, plumose. Caryopses with a reticulate pericarp, falling free of the lemma and palea; hila long-linear. x = 6, 7. The name of the genus is an old Greek name for a grass.

Phalaris has 22 species, most of which grow primarily in temperate regions. It is found in a wide range of habitats, although most species prefer somewhat mesic, disturbed areas. There are 11 species in the Flora region, five native and six introduced.

The sterile florets of Phalaris are frequently mistaken for tufts of hairs at the base of a solitary functional floret. Close examination will reveal that the hairs are actually growing from linear to narrowly lanceolate pieces of tissue. Developmental studies have shown that these structures are reduced lemmas.

Many species of Phalaris are weedy. A few are cultivated for fodder, and one, Phalaris canariensis, is grown for birdseed. In addition, the dense panicles of P. paradoxa are sometimes dyed green and used to simulate shrubs in landscape models.


SELECTED REFERENCES Anderson, D.E. 1961. Taxonomy and distribution of the genus Phalaris. Iowa State Coll. J. Sci. 36:1-96; Baldini, R.M. 1995. Revision of the genus Phalaris L. (Gramineae). Webbia 49:265-329; Merigliano, M.F. and P. Lesica. 1998. The native status of reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea L.) in the inland northwest, USA. Nat. Areas J. 18:223-230; Ross, E.M. 1989. Phalaris L. Pp. 132-135 in T.D. Stanley and E.M. Ross. Flora of South-Eastern Queensland, vol. 3. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Miscellaneous Publication QM88001. Queensland Department of Primary Industries, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. 532 pp.; Thellung, A. 1912 [title page 1911]. La Flore Adventice de Montpellier. Imprimerie Emile Le Maout, Cherbourg, France. [Preprinted from Mém. Soc. Sci. Nat. Cherbourg 38:[57]-728 (1912)]; Weiller, C.M., M.J. Henwood, J. Lenz, and L. Watson. 1995 onwards. Pooideae (Poaceae) in Australia-Descriptions and Illustrations. http://biodiversity.uno.edu/delta/pooid/www/, viewed July 12, 2003.

1
Spikelets in clusters, heterogamous, the lower 4-7 spikelets in each cluster with a staminate (rarely sterile) terminal floret, only the terminal spikelet in the clusters with a pistillate or bisexual floret; disarticulation usually at the base of the spikelet clusters, sometimes beneath the bisexual or pistillate spikelets (2)
Spikelets borne singly, homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; disarticulation above the glumes, below the sterile florets (3)
2
Glumes of the bisexual or pistillate spikelets winged, the wings with 1 prominent tooth; plants annual; culms not swollen at the base ..... 1. P. paradoxa
Glumes of the bisexual or pistillate spikelets winged, the wings entire or irregularly dentate to crenate distally; plants perennial; culms with swollen bases ..... 2. P. coerulescens
3
Glume keels not winged or with wings no more than 0.2 mm wide (4)
Glume keels broadly winged, the wings 0.2-1 mm wide (7)
4
Plants perennial; bisexual florets with acute to somewhat acuminate apices (5)
Plants annual; bisexual florets with beaked or strongly acuminate apices (6)
5
Panicles elongate, 5-40 cm long, evidently branched towards the base; sterile florets less than 1/2 as long as the bisexual florets ..... 9. P. arundinacea
Panicles ovoid to cylindrical, 1.5-6 cm long, branches not evident; sterile florets usually more than 1/2 as long as the bisexual florets ..... 8. P. californica
6
Apices of the bisexual florets glabrous; glumes scabrous over the lateral veins and keels, and adjacent to the keels ..... 7. P. lemmonii
Apices of the bisexual florets pubescent; glumes smooth or scabridulous over the lateral veins, keels smooth to scabridulous, the wing surface smooth ..... 10. P. caroliniana
7
Sterile florets usually 1, if 2, the lower to 0.7 mm long and the upper 1-3 mm long (8)
Sterile florets 2, equal to subequal, 0.5-4.5 mm long (9)
8
Plants annual; glumes with irregularly dentate to crenate keels, varying within a panicle ..... 3. P. minor
Plants perennial; glumes usually with entire keels ..... 4. P. aquatica
9
Panicles cylindrical, discontinuous, sometimes lobed ..... 11. P. angusta
Panicles usually ovoid to ellipsoid, occasionally cylindrical, continuous, not lobed (10)
10
Sterile florets 0.6-1.2 mm long, about 1/5 the length of the bisexual florets ..... 5. P. brachystachys
Sterile florets 1.5-4.5 mm long, 1/3 or more the length of the bisexual florets (11)
11
Glumes 0.8-1.5 mm wide, with acute to acuminate apices ..... 10. P. caroliniana
Glumes 2-2.5 mm wide, with rounded, mucronate apices ..... 6. P. canariensis


1.   Phalaris paradoxa L.
Hooded Canarygrass

Plants annual; tufted. Culms 20-100 cm, not swollen at the base. Ligules 3-5 mm, truncate to acute; blades 5-10(15) cm long, 2-5 mm wide. Panicles 3-9 cm long, about 2 cm wide, dense, obovoid to clavate, tapering at the base, rounded to truncate at the top; branches with groups of 5-6 usually staminate, rarely sterile spikelets clustered around a terminal pistillate or bisexual spikelet, the spikelets homomorphic; pedicels hispid; disarticulation beneath the spikelet cluster. Spikelets heterogamous, some staminate or sterile, others bisexual or pistillate; florets 3, the lowest 2 florets sterile, highly reduced, the terminal floret staminate, pistillate, or bisexual (rarely sterile). Glumes of staminate or sterile spikelets usually narrowly winged and to 9 mm long and clavate, those of the spikelets at the base of the panicles reduced to knobs of tissue terminating the pedicels; glumes of pistillate or bisexual spikelets 5-8 mm long, about 1 mm wide, keeled, keels winged, wings 0.2-0.4 mm wide, terminating below the apices and forming a single, prominent tooth, lateral veins conspicuous, apices acuminate to awned, awns about 0.5 mm; sterile florets of all spikelets 0.2-0.4 mm, knoblike projections on the calluses of the terminal florets, often with 1-2 hairs; terminal florets of all spikelets 2.5-3.5 mm long, 0.8-1.5 mm wide, indurate, shiny, glabrous or with a few short hairs near the tip; anthers 1.5-2.5 mm. 2n = 14.

Phalaris paradoxa is native to the Mediterranean region; it is now found throughout the world, primarily in harbor areas and near old ballast dumps. It is an established weed in parts of Arizona and California. Within an inflorescence, the most reduced sterile spikelets are located near the base, and the most nearly normal spikelets are near the top.


2.   Phalaris coerulescens Desf.
Sunolgrass

Plants perennial; cespitose, not rhizomatous. Culms 70-200 cm, swollen at the base. Ligules 4-6 mm, rounded to narrowly acute; blades 4-20(25) cm long, 1-5(7) mm wide. Panicles 3-12 cm long, 1-2.3 cm wide, ovoid to cylindrical; branches with groups of 4-7 staminate (rarely sterile) spikelets clustered around a terminal pistillate or bisexual spikelet, the spikelets homomorphic; pedicels glabrous or sparsely hispid; disarticulation below individual bisexual spikelets or below the spikelet clusters. Spikelets heterogamous, some staminate or sterile, others bisexual or pistillate; florets 1-3, if more than 1, the lower florets sterile and highly reduced, the terminal (or only) floret staminate, pistillate, or bisexual. Glumes usually 5-9 mm long, 1.1-2 mm wide, glabrous or hirsute, keels winged, wings 0.2-0.5 mm wide, entire or irregularly dentate distally, lateral veins conspicuous, scabrous, apices mucronate, mucros 0.3-0.7(1) mm, glumes of the spikelets near the base of the panicle to 3 mm; sterile florets of all spikelets absent or to 1/10 as long the terminal florets, glabrous or almost so; terminal florets of all spikelets homomorphic, staminate, pistillate or bisexual, about 2.5 mm long, 0.7-1.4 mm wide, glabrous or with a few short hairs at the base; anthers 2.5-3 mm. Caryopses 2.8-3.3 mm long, 1.2-1.4 mm wide. 2n = 14, 42.

Phalaris coerulescens is native around the Mediterranean; it is now established in northern Europe and South America. It was found in Contra Costa County, California, in 2000.


3.   Phalaris minor Retz.
Lesser Canarygrass

Plants annual. Culms 10-100 cm, not swollen at the base. Ligules 5-12 mm, truncate to rounded, often lacerate; blades 3-15 cm long, 2-10 mm wide, smooth, shiny. Panicles 1-8 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, dense, ovoid-lanceoloid, truncate to rounded at the base, rounded apically, the spikelets borne individually, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 2; disarticulation above the glumes, beneath the sterile florets. Glumes 4-6.5 mm long, 1.2-2 mm wide, keels winged distally, wings 0.3-0.5 mm wide,irregularly dentate or crenate, occasionally entire, varying within a panicle, lateral veins conspicuous, smooth; sterile florets 1, 0.7-1.8 mm, linear, glabrous or almost so; bisexual florets 2.5-4 mm long, 1.2-1.8 mm wide, pubescent, dull yellow when immature, becoming shiny gray-brown at maturity, acute to somewhat acuminate; anthers 1-2 mm. 2n = 28, 29.

Phalaris minor is native around the Mediterranean and in northwestern Asia, but is now found throughout the world. Even where it is native, it usually grows in disturbed ground, often around harbors and near refuse dumps. Although it has been found at numerous locations in the United States, it is only established in the southern portion of the Flora region.

The compact panicle with its truncate to rounded base and the rather variable edges of the glume wings usually distinguish Phalaris minor from other species in the genus.


4.   Phalaris aquatica L.
Bulbous Canarygrass

Plants perennial; cespitose, shortly rhizomatous. Culms 60-200 cm, often swollen at the base, rooting at the lower nodes. Ligules 2-12 mm, truncate, lacerate; blades 5-15(20) cm long, 0.5-10 mm wide. Panicles 1.5-15 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, usually cylindric, sometimes ovoid, occasionally lobed at the base, the spikelets borne individually, not clustered; branches not evident. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 2-3(4), occasionally with 2 bisexual florets, occasionally the terminal floret viviparous; disarticulation above the glumes, beneath the sterile florets. Glumes 4.4-7.5 mm long, 1.2-1.5 mm wide, keels winged distally, wings 0.2-0.4 mm wide, usually entire, lateral veins conspicuous, smooth; sterile florets usually 1, if 2, the lowest floret much the shorter, to 0.7 mm, the upper or only sterile floret 1-3 mm, pubescent; bisexual florets 3.1-4.6 mm long, 1.2-1.5 mm wide, pubescent, stramineous, acute; anthers 3-3.6 mm. 2n = 28.

A native of the Mediterranean region, Phalaris aquatica now grows in many parts of the world, frequently having been introduced because of its forage value. Even where it is native, it usually grows in disturbed areas, often those subject to seasonal flooding. It is now established in western North America, being most common along the coast, and as an invasive in disturbed wet prairies with clay soils.

Phalaris aquatica can hybridize with other species of Phalaris. The stabilized polyploid hybrid with P. minor, P. ×daviesii S.T. Blake, is cultivated as a forage grass in Australia, Africa, and South America. The hybrid with P. arundinacea, P. ×monspeliensis Daveau, is also a good forage grass. Although the name 'Toowoomba Canarygrass' has been applied to Phalaris ×monspeliensis in North America, Ross (1989) states that it should be applied to P. aquatica. The English language name used here is more descriptive of the species and is the name used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for P. aquatica.


5.   Phalaris brachystachys Link
Shortspike Canarygrass

Plants annual. Culms 80-100 cm. Ligules 4-6(7) mm, rounded, lacerate; blades 4-25 cm long, 3-8(10) mm wide. Panicles 1.5-5 cm long, 0.8-1.8 cm wide, usually ovoid to ellipsoid, occasionally cylindrical, continuous, not lobed, narrowly truncate at the base, rounded at the top; branches not evident, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes, beneath the sterile florets. Glumes 6-8.5 mm long, 1.4-2.5 mm wide, glabrous or pubescent, keels winged on the distal 2/3, wings to 1 mm wide, entire, abruptly pointed; sterile florets 2, subequal to equal, 0.6-1.2 mm, about 1/5 the length of the bisexual florets, with a tuft of hairs at the base, otherwise glabrous; bisexual florets 4.4-5 mm long, 1.3-2 mm wide, pubescent, shiny, brown to dark brown at maturity, acute; anthers 3-4 mm. 2n = 12.

Phalaris brachystachys is native to the Mediterranean region and the Canary Islands, where it grows on waste ground, at the edges of cultivated fields, and on roadsides. It is adventive in northern Europe, Australia, and North America. It is known from a few locations in the Flora region, most of them being in California.


6.   Phalaris canariensis L.
Annual Canarygrass, Phalaris des Canaries, Alpiste des Canaries

Plants annual. Culms 30-100 cm. Ligules 3-6 mm, rounded to obtuse, lacerate; blades 3-25 cm long, 2-10 mm wide. Panicles 1.5-5 cm long, 1.5-2 cm wide, ovoid to oblong-ovoid, continuous, not lobed, truncate at the base; branches not evident, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes, beneath the sterile florets. Glumes 7-10 mm long, 2-2.5 mm wide, smooth, mostly glabrous, sometimes sparsely pilose between the veins, keels winged, wings to 0.6 mm, widening distally, lateral veins inconspicuous, smooth, apices rounded, mucronate; sterile florets 2, equal or subequal, 2-4.5 mm, 1/3 or more the length of the bisexual florets, lanceolate, sparsely pubescent, acute; bisexual florets 4.5-6.8 mm, ovate, densely pubescent, shiny, stramineous to gray-brown; anthers 2-4 mm. 2n = 12.

Phalaris canariensis is native to southern Europe and the Canary Islands, but is now widespread in the rest of the world, frequently being grown for birdseed. The exposed ends of the glumes are almost semicircular in outline, making this one of our easier species of Phalaris to identify.


7.   Phalaris lemmonii Vasey
Lemmon's Canarygrass

Plants annual. Culms (7)25-150 cm. Ligules 1.5-8 mm, acute; blades to 14 cm long, 1-8 mm wide, smooth, shining, sometimes revolute. Panicles (2)3-20 cm long, 0.6-1.5 cm wide, cylindrical, evidently branched below; branches to 2 cm, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets (2)3; disarticulation above the glumes, below the sterile florets. Glumes 4.5-6.7 mm long, 0.9-1.1 mm wide, acuminate, keels not or only slightly winged, the keels, lateral veins, and adjacent surfaces scabrous; sterile florets (1)2, 1-1.6 mm, densely appressed-pubescent; bisexual florets 2.7-5.1 mm long, 1.2-1.6 mm wide, shiny, stramineous to gray-brown, mostly spreading-pubescent but the apices glabrous, strongly acuminate to beaked; anthers 0.7-2 mm. 2n = 14.

Phalaris lemmonii is native to California, but it has also been found in Victoria, Australia. It grows in moist areas and appears to hybridize with both Phalaris caroliniana and P. angusta (Baldini 1995). The strongly beaked tips of the bisexual florets are a useful distinguishing feature.

Crampton noted on one unusually small specimen (UTC 230918) that it was the vernal pool ecotype of the species. He did not publish his observations.

Anderson (1961) and Baldini (1995) distinguished Phalaris lemmonii from P. platensis Henrard ex Wacht., a narrowly distributed South American taxon, arguing that it was slightly longer in the length of its ligules, glumes, florets, and anthers, but many California specimens fall within the range given for P. platensis rather than that for P. lemmonii. Phalaris lemmonii is the older name so, if further research shows that the two species should be combined, P. lemmonii will remain the correct name for plants from the Flora region.


8.   Phalaris californica Hook. & Arn.
California Canarygrass

Plants perennial; not cespitose, rhizomatous. Culms 60-160 cm, swollen at the base. Ligules 3-5(8) mm, truncate to acute, irregularly erose; blades 5-35(40) cm long, 3-12(18) mm wide, smooth. Panicles 1.5-6 cm long, 1-3 cm wide, ovoid to cylindrical, often purplish, often truncate at the base; branches not evident, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes, below the sterile florets. Glumes 5-8 mm long, 0.9-1.6 mm wide, acute to acuminate, keels not or only narrowly winged distally, scabrous, lateral veins conspicuous, smooth; sterile florets 2, equal or subequal, 1.8-3.5 mm, usually more than 1/2 as long as the bisexual florets, densely pubescent; bisexual florets 3.5-5 mm long, 1-1.5 mm wide, sparsely pubescent, shiny, stramineous, becoming darker at maturity, apices acute to weakly acuminate; anthers 3-3.5 mm. 2n = 28.

Phalaris californica is native to California and southwestern Oregon. It grows in ravines and on open, moist ground. Records from further north probably represent introductions. The relatively long, sterile florets of P. californica distinguish it from other species of Phalaris in the Flora region.


9.   Phalaris arundinacea L.
Reed Canarygrass, Alpiste Roseau, Phalaris Roseau

Plants perennial; not cespitose, rhizomatous, rhizomes scaly. Culms 40-250 cm. Ligules 4-10(11) mm, truncate, lacerate; blades 10-30 cm long, 5-20 mm wide, surfaces scabrous, margins serrate. Panicles 5-40 cm long, 1-2 cm wide, elongate, often dense, always evidently branched at least near the base; branches to 9 cm, normally appressed but spreading during anthesis, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes and beneath the sterile florets. Glumes subequal, 4-8.1 mm long, 0.8-1 mm wide, keels smoothly curved, usually scabrous, not or narrowly winged distally, wings to 0.2 mm wide, lateral veins inconspicuous, apices acute; sterile florets 2, subequal to equal, 1.5-2 mm, less than 1/2 as long as the bisexual spikelets, pubescent; bisexual florets 2.5-4.2 mm; lemmas glabrate on the lower portion, pubescent distally and on the margins, dull yellow when immature, shiny gray-brown to brown at maturity, apices acute; anthers 2.5-3 mm. 2n = 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 35.

Phalaris arundinacea is a circumboreal species, native to north temperate regions; it occurs, as an introduction, in the Southern Hemisphere. It grows in wet areas such as the edges of lakes, ponds, ditches, and creeks, often forming dense stands; in some areas it is a problematic weed. North American populations may be a mix of native strains, European strains, and agronomic cultivars (Merigliano and Lesica 1998).

The interpretation adopted here is that of Baldini (1995), who treated Phalaris arundinacea sensu stricto as the most widespread species in a complex of three species. The other two species are P. rotgesii (Husn.) Baldini, a diploid that is restricted to France and Italy, and P. caesia Nees, a hexaploid that grows in southern Europe, western Asia, and eastern to southern Africa. Phalaris rotgesii has glumes 2-3.8 mm long, sterile florets 1-1.5 mm long, bisexual florets 2-3 mm long, and anthers about 2 mm long. The corresponding measurements for P. caesia are 6-7 mm, about 2.5 mm, 4-5 mm, and 3.5-4 mm, respectively. Other taxonomists have included P. rotgesii and P. caesia in P. arundinacea. Only P. arundinacea sensu stricto has been found in North America.

A sterile form of Phalaris arundinacea with striped leaves–Phalaris arundinacea var. picta L., also referred to as Phalaris arundinacea forma variegata (Parnell) Druce–is known as 'Ribbon Grass' or 'Gardener's Gaiters' and is sometimes grown as an ornamental. Baldini (1995) noted that it sometimes appears to escape, and is never found far from a cultivated stand.

Phalaris arundinacea hybridizes with other species of Phalaris. One hybrid, P. ×monspeliensis Daveau [= P. arundinacea × P. aquatica] is grown for forage.


10.   Phalaris caroliniana Walter
Carolina Canarygrass

Plants annual; not rhizomatous. Culms to 150 cm. Ligules 1.5-7 mm, truncate to broadly acute; blades 1.5-15 cm long, 2-11 mm wide, smooth, shiny green, apices acuminate. Panicles 0.5-8(8.5) cm long, 0.8-2 cm wide, ovoid to subcylindrical; branches not evident, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes, below the sterile florets. Glumes 3.8-6(8) mm long, 0.8-1.5 mm wide, keels smooth or scabridulous, narrowly to broadly winged distally, wings 0.1-0.5 mm wide, entire, smooth, lateral veins prominent, usually smooth, sometimes scabridulous, apices acute or acuminate; sterile florets 2, 1.5-2.5 mm, 1/2 or more the length of the bisexual florets, pubescent; bisexual florets 2.9-4.7 mm long, 0.9-1.8 mm wide, pubescent, shiny, stramineous when immature, brown when mature, apices acuminate to beaked; anthers 1.5-2 mm. 2n = 14.

Phalaris caroliniana grows in wet, marshy, and swampy ground. It is a common species in suitable habitats through much of the southern portion of the Flora region and in northern Mexico. It has also been found in Puerto Rico, where it may be an introduction, and in Europe and Australia, where it is undoubtedly an introduction.


11.   Phalaris angusta Nees ex Trin.
Narrow Canarygrass

Plants annual; not rhizomatous. Culms 10-170 cm. Ligules 4-7 mm, truncate to rounded or obtuse, lacerate; blades 3-15 cm long, 2-12 mm wide. Panicles 2-20 cm long, 0.6-1.5 cm wide, cylindrical, discontinuous, sometimes lobed; branches sometimes evident, the spikelets borne singly, not clustered. Spikelets homogamous, all spikelets with a bisexual floret; florets 3; disarticulation above the glumes, beneath the sterile florets. Glumes 2-5.5 mm long, 0.6-1.1 mm wide, rectangular, often purplish, keels winged, scabrous, wings about 0.4 mm wide, smooth, lateral veins conspicuous, scabrous, apices mucronate; sterile florets 2, equal, 0.5-1.5 mm, linear, sparsely and inconspicuously hairy; bisexual florets 2-3.8 mm long, 0.9-1.5 mm wide, laterally compressed, pubescent, particularly distally, shiny, apices tapering; anthers 0.5-1.3 mm. 2n = 14.

Phalaris angusta grows in the contiguous United States, and in Ecuador south to Chile and Argentina. Its North American distribution is disjunct, including California and Oregon in the west and the coastal region between Texas and Georgia in the southeast. In South America, it is most abundant in a band from Chile to Argentina; it also grows in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia. Thellung (1912) considered it to be a South America species that is adventive in North America. Throughout its distribution, it tends to grow in open grasslands and prairies.

Baldini (1995) suggested that P. angusta, P. lemmonii, and P. caroliniana are involved in reciprocal hybridization and introgression, particularly in California.