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Genus Aristida Family Poaceae

Description: Tufted annuals or perennials, usually with slender wiry culms.

Leaves either in a basal tuft or mostly on the culms; ligule usually a row of very short hairs; blade rolled in the bud.

Inflorescence a narrow or open panicle, sometimes spike-like, rarely a raceme.

Spikelets pedicellate, narrow, 1 bisexual floret, rachilla disarticulating above the glumes. Glumes equal or unequal, narrow, acute, acuminate or subulate, 1–3-nerved, keeled, mucronate or entire. Lemma hardened, convolute or apparently involute, narrow, 3-nerved, callus sharp and shortly bearded, apex terminating in a 3-branched awn with or without a distinct column. Palea small, 2-nerved.


Distribution and occurrence: World: c. 300 species, trop & subtropical regions, frequently in low rainfall areas and on poor soils. Australia: c. 54 species (native), all States.

Not valuable to fodder except during droughts. The 'seeds' (diaspores or units of dispersal) with a very sharp callus cause damage to animal hides and contaminate wool. Note: relative length of the glume applies to the condition in the intact spikelet, not with the glumes removed and length compared.

Text by S. W. L. Jacobs & S. M. Hastings
Taxon concept:

Taxa not yet included in identification key
Aristida echinata,    Aristida personata

 Key to the species 
1Lateral awns less than 30% as long as the central awn, different in texture from it and thinAristida spuria
Lateral awns well-developed or, if shorter, over 30% as long as the central awn and similar in texture to it2
2Articulation (swollen joint) present between lemma and awn or column of awn3
Articulation absent on the lemma (awn persistent or breaking at no particular place)
                       Back to 1
4
3Column 10–18(–25)mm long; lemma 5–7 mm long, brownish when mature; plants 10–30(–50) cm highAristida contorta
Column (16–)28–40 mm long; lemma 7–10 mm long, purplish when mature; plants 30–60 cm high
                       Back to 2
Aristida holathera
4Lemma involute, with a furrow on the ventral surface (sometimes the margins shows tendency to be convolute but the ventral furrow is distinct); grain with a well-developed ventral furrow5
Lemma convolute, without a ventral furrow; grain with or without a very shallow furrow
                       Back to 2
14
5Awns unequal in length, laterals 30–65% as long as medianAristida queenslandica
Awns more or less equal in length, or laterals more than 70% as long as median
                       Back to 4
6
6Margins of involute lemma with rows of distinct short spines (tubercles) more prominent in the upper part of the groove7
Margins of the lemma furrow smooth or scabrous but without tubercles
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9
7Glumes inverse i.e. the lower longer than the upper (var. praealta)Aristida calycina
Glumes subequal or normal (lower shorter than upper), rarely inverse
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8
8Lemma 6–9 mm long, subequal to glumes, without a pseudo-articulation (var. subspinulifera)Aristida jerichoensis
Lemma 4–5.5 mm long, much shorter than the glumes, with a pseudo-articulation
                       Back to 7
Aristida helicophylla
9Lemma muricate (with protuberances) towards the apex10
Lemma smooth
                       Back to 6
11
10Inflorescence a dense, spike-like panicle; plants usually less than 30 cm high, annualsAristida anthoxanthoides
Inflorescence more loosely arranged; plants usually more than 50 cm high, perennials
                       Back to 9
Aristida muricata
11Lateral awns shorter than the central awn by 1–2 mm; upper glume 8 mm long with an acute, entire apex (var. jerichoensis)Aristida jerichoensis
Lateral awns shorter than the central awn by more than 2 mm; upper glume more or less acute, entire
                       Back to 9
12
12Lemma 3.5–5.5 mm long; upper glume 5–6 mm long with a 2-fid apex and a mucro between the lobesAristida benthamii
Lemma more than 6 mm long, upper glume entire
                       Back to 11
13
13Glumes acuminate to awned, distinctly inverseAristida acuta
Glumes acute to obtuse, subequal, normal; inflorescence branches bearing spikelets from near their bases
                       Back to 12
Aristida calycina
14Column of half to several spirals between the lemma apex and the awns15
Column absent, the awns borne directly on lemma apex
                       Back to 4
17
15Lower glume 3-nervedAristida warburgii
Lower glume 1-nerved
                       Back to 14
16
16Lower glume less than 8 mm long, glumes differing in length by up to 2 mmAristida psammophila
Lower glume more than 8 mm long, glumes differing in length by 3–4 mm
                       Back to 15
Aristida latifolia
17Lemma extended beyond both glumes18
Lemma not extended beyond both glumes
                       Back to 14
24
18Lower glume c. 4 mm long, upper glume less than 7 mm long19
Lower glume more than 5 mm long, upper glume more than 7 mm long
                       Back to 17
20
19Inflorescence 3–7 cm long, 1–4 cm wide, oblong-ovate in outlineAristida caput-medusae
Inflorescence larger, irregular in outline
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Aristida vagans
20Culms bushy with many fine branchesAristida gracilipes
Culms not bushy, if much-branched then robust, otherwise slender with few branches
                       Back to 18
21
21Glumes acute to shortly aristulateAristida ramosa
Glumes prominently aristulate
                       Back to 20
22
22Lemma scabrous-tuberculate; culms very robustAristida lignosa
Lemma scabrous only on the margins near the apex; culms slender to robust
                       Back to 21
23
23Culms 25–45 cm high; inflorescence 5–11 cm longAristida leichhardtiana
Culms 60–120 cm high; inflorescence 10–30 cm long (var. speciosa)
                       Back to 22
Aristida ramosa
24Lemma shorter than or subequal to the upper glume25
Lemma shorter than or subequal to the lower glume
                       Back to 17
33
25Upper glume more than 12 mm long26
Upper glume less than 12 mm long
                       Back to 24
29
26Inflorescence longer than wideAristida vickeryae
Inflorescence about as wide as long
                       Back to 25
27
27Inflorescence 14–30 cm long and almost as wide; spikelets terminal in inflorescence branchesAristida leptopoda
Inflorescence 6–12 cm long and wide; spikelets evenly distributed on the branches
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28
28Peduncle terete (cylindrical), inflorescence dense; lemma almost smoothAristida behriana
Peduncle compressed (flattened), inflorescence more open; lemma densely scabrous
                       Back to 27
Aristida obscura
29Lemma apex tuberculate (var. scaberula)Aristida ramosa
Lemma smooth or scabrous at the apex, not tuberculate
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30
30Lemma distinctly scabrous in the upper 60%Aristida longicollis
Lemma smooth or scabrous only on the apical margins
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31
31Glume tips acute to shortly aristulate (var. speciosa)Aristida ramosa
Glume tips prominently aristulate
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32
32Culms 25–45 cm high; inflorescence 5–8 cm longAristida leichhardtiana
Culms 60–120 cm high; inflorescence 10–30 cm long
                       Back to 31
Aristida ramosa
33Inflorescence loose and openAristida blakei
Inflorescence dense or spike-like
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34
34Lemma to 6.5 mm long; leaves with blade flat and curly, not stiff; plants rather delicateAristida platychaeta
Lemma usually more than 6.5 mm long; leaves with blade stiff and usually folded; robust, wiry plants
                       Back to 33
35
35Glumes subequal; lemma 6–8.5 mm long; awns 8–15 mm longAristida nitidula
Glumes unequal; lemma 8.5–12 mm long; awns 13–18 mm long
                       Back to 34
Aristida strigosa

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