Field Guide

Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants

Showing 1 - 10 of 14 results
Species Types
Scientific Name
Bromus pubescens (formerly B. purgans)
Description
Several species of brome grasses are found in Missouri. Canada brome, or hairy woodland brome, is one of the few that are native. It grows to 4 feet high, and its open flower clusters have drooping spikelets.
Media
Caucasian bluestem seed head
Species Types
Scientific Name
Bothriochloa bladhii
Description
Causasian bluestem and the closely related yellow bluestem are both aggressive, weedy degraders of pasturelands that escape cultivation and endanger native habitats. Learn more about these Old World grasses, and please don’t plant them!
Media
Photo of several big bluestem seed heads against a blue sky.
Species Types
Scientific Name
All true grasses (species in the grass family)
Description
Missouri has 276 species in the grass family, including well-known crop plants and our native prairie grasses. Distinguishing between the species can be difficult, but it’s easy to learn some basics about the group.
Media
Photo of Johnson grass flower clusters
Species Types
Scientific Name
Sorghum halepense
Description
Johnson grass is a native of the Mediterranean that is invasive in our country. It’s a weed that infests cropland and degrades native ecosystems, and heavy infestations are found in all the major river bottoms of Missouri.
Media
Orchard grass leaves and flowering stems, growing in a field
Species Types
Scientific Name
Dactylis glomerata
Description
Orchard grass is a perennial, clump-forming, cool-season grass introduced to American pastures long ago. Identify this common roadside grass by its bluish-green leaves, flattened stalks, and dense, flattened, bushy clusters of spikelets.
Media
Photo of rattlesnake master flower heads side view
Species Types
Scientific Name
Eryngium yuccifolium
Description
“It’s an odd plant,” this rattlesnake master, “with its leaves like yucca, a head like a thistle, and second cousin to the carrot.” That’s how the great prairie writer John Madson summed it up!
Media
Photo of several reed canary grass plants with flowering heads
Species Types
Scientific Name
Phalaris arundinacea
Description
Reed canary grass is native to Europe, Asia, and North America, and it varies quite a bit. Our native Missouri version, for instance, is quite different from the Eurasian type that has been widely introduced — and which has proven to be highly invasive.
Media
Photo of path rush, closeup showing drying fruits.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Juncus spp. and Luzula spp.
Description
Missouri has 24 species in the rush family. Distinguishing between these grasslike plants can be tricky, but it’s easy to learn some basics about the group.
Media
Photo of eastern woodland sedge plant growing among leaf litter.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Carex, Schoenoplectus, Scirpus, and other genera
Description
Missouri has more than 200 species in the sedge family. Distinguishing between these grasslike plants can be difficult, but it’s easy to learn some basics about the group.
Media
Vertical image closeup of sweet flag spadix
Species Types
Scientific Name
Acorus calamus (syn. A. calamus var. calamus)
Description
At a glance, the upright sword-shaped leaves of sweet flag make it resemble cattails or irises. Like them, sweet flag also lives in wet soils. But the flower heads are distinctive, and details of the leaves set them apart, too.
See Also

About Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants in Missouri

A very simple way of thinking about the green world is to divide the vascular plants into two groups: woody and nonwoody (or herbaceous). But this is an artificial division; many plant families include some species that are woody and some that are not. The diversity of nonwoody vascular plants is staggering! Think of all the ferns, grasses, sedges, lilies, peas, sunflowers, nightshades, milkweeds, mustards, mints, and mallows — weeds and wildflowers — and many more!