Common Graminoid Species of the Northwest Forest






Terminology | Pictorial

Calamagrostis canadensis
Blue-joint Grass
Poaceae (Grass Family)


General - tussock-forming perennial from creeping rhizomes; stems 60 - 120 cm tall.

Blue-joint Grass Leaves - many, 4 - 10 mm wide, flat, rather limp, no auricles; ligules 3 - 6 mm long.

Flower Cluster - drooping panicle, 10 - 20 cm long, narrow and rather dense to loose and relatively open; spikelets 1-flowered; glumes 3 - 4 mm long, pointed; lemma 2 - 3 mm long with straight awn from just below middle, and many callus hairs nearly as long as lemma.


Moist woods, meadows, wetlands, lakeshores and clearings; widespread across Northwestern Ontario boreal region; north past treeline to Arctic coast; circumpolar.


Polar grass (Arctagrostis latifolia) resembles bluejoint, but its lemmas are not awned and do not have hairy tufts at their bases. It has runners, stems to 1 m tall, short, broad, flat leaves and a compact, lance-to pyramid-shaped cluster of dark purple spikelets. Polar grass is widespread and circumpolar, and grows in wet meadows and on moist shores, river flats and peaty barrens across the northern part of our region.

Bluejoint is the most common reed grass in North America. In the north, it is an important food for bison. The Cree used bluejoint to make mattresses when they did not have better materials. They also lined winter storage pits with bluejoint and covered the vegetables in these pits with a thick layer of bluejoint to protect them from the frost. Together with sedges, bluejoint often forms the bulk of the 'beaver-hay' that grows naturally in meadows too wet for cultivation. Because of its dense leafiness, wide range of habitats, and high genetic diversity, bluejoint would seem to have a high potential for exploitation. However, its light, hair-surrounded seeds are difficult to collect and sow, and this has limited testing and cultivation.

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