An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions/Gramineae
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Annual or perennial herbs, of various habit, rarely shrubs or trees. Culms (stems) generally hollow, but occasionally solid, the nodes closed. Leaves sheathing, the sheaths usually split to the base on the side opposite the blade; a scarious or cartilaginous ring, naked or hairy, rarely wanting, called the ligule, is borne at the orifice of the sheath. Inflorescence spicate, racemose or paniculate, consisting of spikelets composed of two to many 2-ranked imbricated bracts, called scales (glumes), the two lowest in the complete spikelet always empty, one or both of these sometimes wanting. One or more of the upper scales, except sometimes the terminal ones, contains in the axil a flower, which is usually enclosed by a bract-like awnless organ called the palet, placed opposite the scale and with its back toward the axis (rachilla) of the spikelet, generally 2-keeled; sometimes the palet is present without the flower, and vice versa. Flowers perfect, pistillate, or staminate, sometimes monoecious or dioecious, subtended by 1-3 minute hyaline scales called the lodicules. Stamens 1-6, usually 3. Anthers 2-celled, versatile. Ovary 1-celled, 1-ovuled. Styles 1-3, commonly 2 and lateral. Stigmas hairy or plumose. Fruit a seed-like grain (caryopsis). Endosperm starchy.
About 4500 species, widely distributed throughout the world, growing in water and on ail kinds of soil. Those yielding food-grains are called cereals. The species are more numerous in tropical countries, while the number of individuals is much greater in temperate regions, often forming extended areas of turf. The time of year noted is that of ripening seed.