Gymnopogon brevifolius

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Gymnopogon brevifolius
Gymnopogon brevifolius.jpg
Photo taken by Kevin Robertson
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida – Monocotyledons
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae ⁄ Gramineae
Genus: Gymnopogon
Species: G. brevifolius
Binomial name
Gymnopogon brevifolius
GYMN BREV dist.jpg
Natural range of Gymnopogon brevifolius from USDA NRCS Plants Database.

Common name: pineland skeleton grass, shortleaf skeletongrass, pineland beard grass

Taxonomic notes

Synonyms: none[1]

Varieties: none[1]


"Tufted, rhizomatous, perennial; culms branching, nodes and internodes glabrous. Leaves cauline; blades glabrous on both surfaces, margins scaberulous, bases cordate; sheaths conspicuously overlapping, glabrous, usually pilose apically; ligules membranous, ciliolate, less than 0.4 mm long; collars usually pilose. Spikes racemose; branches spreading, flexuous, angled, scaberulous. Spikelets in two rows on one side of rachis, 1-flwoered, occasionally a rudiment present in G. amibguus, appressed; pedicels angled, scaberulous, absent or to 1.5 mm long. Glumes 1-nerved, margins usually scarious; paleas 2-nerved, margins usually scarious, acute; callus usually bearded; rachilla prolonged or capped by sterile floret. Grain reddish, linear-ellipsoid."[2]

"Culms 3-6 dm tall. Blades frequently cuspidate, to 9 cm long. Spikelets usually length of spike, 4.5-6.5 cmm long. Glumes 3.5-6.5 mm long; fertile lemma usually glabrous, body 3.5-4 mm long, awn usually 5-10 mm long, occasionally a long, awned sterile lemmas present; paleas 3.5-4 mm long. Grain 2.5-2.6 mm long."[2]


It is generally found in the southeast and eastern United States.[3] More specifically, G. brevifolius can be found from southern New Jersey south to southern Florida, west to Louisiana and Arkansas, and disjunct in Kentucky in the Highland Rim and Texas.[1]



Gymnopogon brevifolius can generally be found in sandhills, pine savannas, prairies, dry woodlands, and calcareous glades.[1] This species is found on longleaf pine sandhills, open wiregrass-pinewoods savannas, mesic pine flatwoods, palmetto-wiregrass-longleaf pine woodlands, pine barrens, and mixed woodlands. Grows in dry and moist sandy loam in these environments as well as human disturbed habitats such as along back roads.[4] It is considered an indicator species of the upper panhandle savannas in Florida, and a possible indicator of native ground-cover in the same region.[5][6] As well, it is listed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service as a facultative upland species, where it most often occurs in non-wetland habitats but can occasionally be found in wetland habitats.[3]

G. brevifolius was found to decrease its occurrence in response to soil disturbance by agriculture in southwest Georgia. It has shown resistance to regrowth in reestablished pine habitat that was disturbed by agricultural practices.[6]

Associated species includes Aristida stricta, Muhlenbergia, Schizachyrium, Panicum anceps, Paspalum bifidum, Pinus palutris, Andropogon, Pinus elliottii, Lilium, Verbesina chapmanii, Platanthera integra, Carphephorus paniculatus, Sabal palmetto, Quercus falcata.[4]

Gymnopogon brevifolious is an indicator species for the Upper Panhandle Savannas community type as described in Carr et al. (2010).[7]


Generally, this species flowers from August until October.[1] It has been observed to flower and fruit in January, April, September through October, and December.[4][8] It also flowers in August.[9]

Seed dispersal

This species is thought to be dispersed by gravity. [10]

Fire ecology

It grows in pineland habitats that are fire-dependent.[5]

Herbivory and toxicology

Overall, it is considered to have poor forage value.[11] It is eaten by white-tailed deer, and comprised their diets more in the summer than in the winter.[12] This species is considered one of the prinicipal grasses that are eaten by deer.[13]

Conservation, cultivation, and restoration

G. brevifolius should avoid soil disturbance by agriculture to conserve its presence in pine communities.[6]It is listed as endangered by the Kentucky State Nature Preserves Commission, by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Natural Heritage Program, and by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Natural Lands Management. It is also listed as a species of special concern by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Natural Heritage Program.[3]

Cultural use

Photo Gallery

References and notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Weakley, A.S. 2020. Flora of the Southeastern United States. Edition of 20 October 2020. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Radford, Albert E., Harry E. Ahles, and C. Ritchie Bell. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. 1964, 1968. The University of North Carolina Press. 118. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 USDA, NRCS. (2016). The PLANTS Database (, 17 May 2019). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Florida State University Robert K. Godfrey Herbarium database. URL: Last accessed: June 2014. Collectors: Loran C. Anderson, Trina Mitchell, James R. Burkhalter, A. H. Curtiss, R. Kral, R.K. Godfrey, W. A. Silveus, and Carolyn Kindell. States and Counties: Florida: Calhoun, Duval, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, Liberty, Santa Rosa, Wakulla, Walton, and Washington. Georgia: Grady.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Carr, S. C., et al. (2010). "A Vegetation Classification of Fire-Dependent Pinelands of Florida." Castanea 75(2): 153-189.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Ostertag, T. E. and K. M. Robertson (2007). A comparison of native versus old-field vegetation in upland pinelands managed with frequent fire, south Georgia, USA. Proceedings of the 23rd Tall Timbers Fire Ecology Conference: Fire in Grassland and Shrubland Ecosystems, Tallahassee, Tall Timbers Research Station.
  7. Carr, S.C., K.M. Robertson, and R.K. Peet. 2010. A vegetation classification of fire-dependent pinelands of Florida. Castanea 75:153-189.
  8. Nelson, G. PanFlora: Plant data for the eastern United States with emphasis on the Southeastern Coastal Plains, Florida, and the Florida Panhandle. Accessed: 17 MAY 2019
  9. Flint, C. L. (1887). Grasses and forage plants: a practical treatise comprising their natural history; comparative nutritive value; methods of cultivating, cutting, and curing. Boston, MA, Lee and Shepard Publishers.
  10. Kirkman, L. Katherine. Unpublished database of seed dispersal mode of plants found in Coastal Plain longleaf pine-grasslands of the Jones Ecological Research Center, Georgia.
  11. Hilman, J. B. (1964). "Plants of the Caloosa Experimental Range " U.S. Forest Service Research Paper SE-12
  12. Thill, R. E. (1983). Deer and cattle forage selection on Louisiana pine-hardwood sites. New Orleans, LA, USDA Forest Service.
  13. Thill, R. E. (1984). "Deer and cattle diets on Louisiana pine-hardwood sites." The Journal of Wildlife Management 48(3): 788-798.