Noteworthy Collections, Northern shorthusk



Scott Namestnik

Brachyelytrum aristosum (Michx.) P. Beauv. ex Trel. (Poaceae). Northern shorthusk, bearded short-husk or long-awned wood grass.

Previous knowledge. Brachyelytrum aristosum is a perennial grass of moist forests, steep wooded slopes, roadsides and fairly disturbed forest edges (Fernald 1950; Saarela et al. 2003; Stephenson & Saarela 2007). Within North America, B. aristosum is known from Ontario to Newfoundland and south to Minnesota, Michigan and Pennsylvania; it has also been observed in northwest Indiana, northeast Ohio and south through the Appalachians to the intersection of Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia (Saarela et al. 2003; Stephenson & Saarela 2007; USDA NRCS 2009). Prior to this collection, only two collections of B. aristosum were known from Indiana, both from Porter County. The first is a 1924 collection made at Keiser stored in the United States National Herbarium at the Smithsonian Institution (Lyon s.n.) (Saarela et al. 2003). The second is a 2007 collection made in sandy woods in Indiana Dunes State Park (M. Homoya 07-07-07-78, with R. Hedge) (Homoya, pers. comm.). Common synonyms for this species include B. aristosum var. glabratum Vasey and B. erectum var. septentrionale Babel (Saarela et al. 2003; Tropicos 2009). A native of northern North America, Brachyelytrum aristosum is a species of concern in Tennessee, where it is listed as Special Concern (USDA NRCS 2009). It is considered Globally Secure (G4G5) and locally secure throughout much of its range, but is considered very rare and imperiled (S2) in Tennessee (Crabtree 2008).

Significance of the report. In many older botanical works, Brachyelytrum aristosum is not taxonomically split from B. erectum (Schreb.) P. Beauv. or is recognized only at the varietal level. Deam (1940) did not note B. aristosum in Indiana, and Swink & Wilhelm (1994) made no mention of B. aristosum in the Indiana counties of the Chicago Region, although they did note the presence of  specimens intermediate between B. erectum and B. aristosum in adjacent Berrien County, Michigan (Stephenson 1971). Saarela et al. (2003) provided evidence that B. aristosum and B. erectum are distinct species. Few collections of B. aristosum from Indiana exist, although this typically northern species is known to occur in states to the southeast of Indiana. This collection represents a new record for LaPorte County, Indiana, and raises interest as to the full geographical range of the species within the state. Populations of B. aristosum are being monitored and tracked by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, and if warranted, the species will be added to the Indiana list of endangered, threatened and rare plants (Homoya, pers. comm.).

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