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Danthonia
(Rytidosperma spp.)

 

A native perennial grass most commonly found near scrub or forest margins on poorer hill country, but sometimes persisting for many years on steeper banks in improved pastures. There are approximately 25 species in the genus, with wide variability in growth form. For example, leaves may be almost 10 mm wide, or so narrow that the plant is similar in appearance to fine fescue.

The New Zealand common name, Danthonia, is a previous Latin name, now replaced by Rytidosperma in New Zealand. In mainland Australia and Tasmania where some species of this grass are also found, the Latin name now in use is Austrodanthonia.

Vegetative identification

 
  • Because of the large number of species, best identified by the seed-head: see below;

  • ligule always a fringe of hairs; in this plant a tuft of longer hairs in place of the auricle;

  • leaves usually ribbed and similar to ryegrass in colour;

  • plant usually loosely tufted with open space between tillers (see photo above).
Seed-head
  • Many seeded spikelets, not unlike fescue, poa, or brome grasses. Usually about 6 - 10 spikelets per head; may be spaced along a single stem (a raceme) or loosely clustered on branches forming a small panicle;

  • the lemma (outer scale on the seed) has three "tails", the centre one long, straight when the seed-head is immature, but twisting in a distinctive way and protruding at an angle as the seeds develop;

  • Seeds have three rows of hairs across the back of the lemma (visible with a low power microscope), and differences in length and density of these is one character used to distinguish the different species.
 

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