Leptochloa fusca ssp. fascicularis Emmet J. Judziewicz

Leptochloa fusca ssp. fascicularis
Emmet J. Judziewicz

Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
Poaceae (Grass Family)
State Protection
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Global Conservation Status Rank


Did you know?

This grass was formally put in the genus Diplachne (as Diplachne maritima, first described from Nantucket [Bicknell 1968]) but it was shown that the fruit characters that separated it from Leptochloa were not consistent (Snow 1998). The common name sprangletop comes from the word sprangle, meaning going in all directions, and refers to the orientation of the flowering branches in this genus.

State Ranking Justification

There are six existing populations but only one of them is large, with over 10,000 plants. Thirteen populations were documented from the late 1800s to the mid-1960s but three of these no longer exist because their habitat has been destroyed. The others still need to be resurveyed to see if they exist.

Short-term Trends

It may be losing ground to Phragmites.

Long-term Trends

Long-term trends are apparently negative, with some populations lost to wetland destruction and the ongoing threat of Phragmites incursion into most current populations.

Conservation and Management


Populations are threatened by expansion of the invasive plants Phragmites and purple loosestrife. Some populations may be threatened by trampling.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Control Phragmites invasions in the salt marshes where it is present and prevent incursions into new areas. Natural buffers should be established around the salt marshes to decrease pollution runoff and other direct human disturbances.



In New York Leptochloa fusca ssp. fascicularis is known exclusively from open, saline or brackish wetlands, including interdunal swales, mudflats, salt ponds, and salt marshes (New York Natural Heritage Program 2011). Brackish sites (Gleason and Cronquist 1991). Brackish soils (Fernald 1970).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Brackish interdunal swales (guide)
  • Brackish intertidal mudflats* (guide)
  • Coastal salt pond* (guide)
  • Inland salt marsh (guide)
  • Inland salt pond* (guide)
  • Marine dredge spoil shore*
  • Marine intertidal mudflats

Associated Species

  • Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bent)
  • Amaranthus pumilus (sea-beach amaranth, coast amaranth)
  • Bolboschoenus maritimus ssp. paludosus (American salt marsh bulrush)
  • Chenopodium rubrum
  • Cyperus spp.
  • Lindernia dubia
  • Lotus corniculatus (common bird's-foot-trefoil)
  • Phragmites australis ssp. australis
  • Schoenoplectus


New York State Distribution

This grass of brackish/saline environments is currently known from Long Island and the inland salt ponds of central New York. There is also one historical record from Rockland County in the southern Hudson Valley.

Global Distribution

This grass occurs throughout the United States but is rare in the Northeast in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. It is considered exotic in Michigan, Ontario, and Qu├ębec.

Best Places to See

  • Jones Beach State Park (Saratoga County)
  • Howland Island Wildlife Management Area

Identification Comments

General Description

Salt-meadow Grass is an annual species with prostrate stems up to 110 centimeters long, growing in circular clumps. The leaves are up to 3 millimeters wide, the uppermost ones sometimes longer than the panicles. Its infloresence is a panicle, with spreading branches usually partially enclosed within the tops of the leaf sheaths. The spikelets are 5 to 12 millimeters long. It has lance-shaped lemmas, either sharp-tipped or with an awn up to 3.5 mm long. The seeds are 0.8 to 2 mm long (FNA 2003).

Best Life Stage for Proper Identification

This grass is best identified when the plant has mature fruit.

Similar Species

Previously three Leptochloa taxa were recognized in New York (Mitchell 1985), separating two non-native subspecies from the native one. Subsequent work has lumped these taxa, and now Leptochloa fusca ssp. fascicularis is considered to be the only member of the genus in New York (NYFA 2010).

Best Time to See

Salt-meadow Grass flowers in early July, with the fruits persisting until the first frost.

  • Flowering
  • Fruiting

The time of year you would expect to find Salt-meadow Grass flowering and fruiting in New York.

Salt-meadow Grass Images


Salt-meadow Grass
Diplachne fusca ssp. fascicularis (Lam.) P.M. Peterson & N. Snow

  • Kingdom Plantae
    • Phylum Anthophyta
      • Class Monocotyledoneae (Monocots)
        • Order Cyperales
          • Family Poaceae (Grass Family)

Additional Common Names

  • Sprangletop


  • Leptochloa fascicularis var. maritima (Bickn.) Gleason
  • Diplachne maritima Bickn.
  • Leptochloa fusca ssp. fascicularis (Lam.) N. Snow

Additional Resources

Best Identification Reference

Flora of North America Editorial Committee. 2003. Flora of North America, North of Mexico. Volume 25. Magnoliophyta: Commelinidae (in part): Poaceae, part 2. Oxford University Press, New York. 783 pp.

Other References

Fernald, M.L. 1950. Gray's manual of botany. 8th edition. D. Van Nostrand, New York. 1632 pp.

Gleason, Henry A. 1952. The New Britton and Brown Illustrated Flora of the Northeastern United States and Canada.

Gleason, Henry A. and A. Cronquist. 1991. Manual of Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York. 910 pp.

Holmgren, Noel. 1998. The Illustrated Companion to Gleason and Cronquist's Manual. Illustrations of the Vascular Plants of Northeastern United States and Adjacent Canada. The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, New York.

Mitchell, Richard S. 1985. Checklist of New York vascular plants. New York State Museum publication. Albany, NY.

Mitchell, Richard S. and Gordon C. Tucker. 1997. Revised Checklist of New York State Plants. Contributions to a Flora of New York State. Checklist IV. Bulletin No. 490. New York State Museum. Albany, NY. 400 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Weldy, T. and D. Werier. 2010. New York flora atlas. [S.M. Landry, K.N. Campbell, and L.D. Mabe (original application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research http://www.fccdr.usf.edu/. University of South Florida http://www.usf.edu/]. New York Flora Association http://newyork.plantatlas.usf.edu/, Albany, New York


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Stephen M. Young

Information for this guide was last updated on: September 6, 2012

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2019. Online Conservation Guide for Diplachne fusca ssp. fascicularis. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/salt-meadow-grass/. Accessed March 22, 2019.

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