Distichlis spicata is a perennial C4 grass (Downton 1971), 15-40 cm tall; colonial from white, scaly rhizomes, sprawling, stems fine, sheaths overlapping.
Leaves initially flat, conspicuously two ranked, stiff, pale, blue-green, 5-15 cm long.
Flowers (florets) dry, tiny, papery; glumes (outer scales) and lemmas (inner scale) to about 0.4 cm long; crowded on 4-19 flowered spikelets; inflorescence (spike) congested with 10-20 spikelets, almost cylindrical, 2-8 cm long, persistent into winter, pale tan, male and female flowers on separate plants (dioecious); blooming and fruiting Aug.-Oct.
Fruit dry, 1-seeded. Seeds eaten by ducks (Martin et al. 1951).
Wetland status: FACW+.
Frequency in NYC: Occasional.
Habitat: High salt marshes. Generally not occurring in other habitats. Tolerates fire, salt, intolerant of shade; soil pH 6.4-10.5 (USDA, NRCS 2010).
Notes:. Usually mixed with Spartina patens which is finer, darker green in summer and has reddish color in winter (Gargiullo pers. obs.).