Field Guide

Wildflowers, Grasses and Other Nonwoody Plants

Showing 1 - 10 of 12 results
Media
Photo of prairie showing big bluestem leaves and flowering stalks
Species Types
Scientific Name
Andropogon gerardii
Description
Every Missourian should know big bluestem. It is the most famous of our native prairie grasses. The seed head of this tall grass branches into three parts, resembling a turkey’s foot.
Media
Bottlebrush grass flowerhead showing spikelets spreading away from main axis
Species Types
Scientific Name
Elymus hystrix
Description
Bottlebrush grass is a native perennial, tuft-forming wild rye that typically grows in woodlands. The widely spaced spikelets spread away at a right angle from the main flowering stem.
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
Canada wild rye seed heads in late season, showing drooping habit and curling awns
Species Types
Scientific Name
Elymus canadensis
Description
Canada wild rye can be identified by its bristly seed heads, which curve downward. As the seeds mature, the straight, long awns curve and bend. This is a common native cool-season grass that reaches about 4 feet tall and is highly valued as forage and hay for livestock.
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 poverty grass clump amid fallen autumn leaves.
Species Types
Scientific Name
Danthonia spicata
Description
A common sight in dry upland Ozark woods, poverty grass is a species you can identify by its leaves alone. The basal leaves persist for several years, becoming dry and curly. Although the flowering stems can be 2 feet high, the basal leaves are only about 5 inches long.
Media
Mature prairie dropseed backlit in prairie
Species Types
Scientific Name
Sporobolus heterolepis
Description
Prairie dropseed is a native perennial bunch grass that forms dense clumps of fine, light green, arching leaves. The seed heads are airy, open, branching clusters bearing small, ovate florets on their own individual branchlets.
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 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
Stand of switchgrass in a prairie in late summer
Species Types
Scientific Name
Panicum virgatum
Description
Switchgrass is a native perennial, warm-season, clump-forming mid or tall grass. In midsummer, delicate-looking, open, multiply-branching flowering clusters rise above the foliage.
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!