Tripsacum dactyloides is a perennial C4 grass (Downton 1971), Tribe: Andropogoneae, related to Zea maize, corn, 1-3 m tall, stems stout; clumped; extensively colonial by thick, iris-like rhizomes.
Leaves elongate, to 2 cm wide.
Flower spikelets unisexual, anthers orange, stamens purple; inflorescence of 1-4 spikes 10-25 cm long, male flowers upper 3/4 to 2/3, female flowers below males; blooming May-June. Seeds hard, about 0.8 cm long, in a single vertical corn-like row, breaking off singly or in segments, probably water dispersed, Sept.
Wetland status: FACW.
Frequency in NYC: Rare (S1S3, U).
Habitat: Open, relatively undisturbed marshy areas, salt marsh edges. Tolerant of brackish water.
Notes: Individual shoots grow vegetatively 2-3 seasons, then reproduce and die (Jackson and Dewald 1994). Maintained by periodic light fires. Host to larvae of a rare moth Amphipoea erepta that bores into base of stem, killing it. This moth is also rare. Has been planted in two restoration efforts (Central Park and Saw Mill Creek) and has disappeared from both.