The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc.

Grasses of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

The oldest public wildflower garden in the United States

fowl mannagrass

Common Name
Fowl Mannagrass (Ridged Glyceria)


Scientific Name
Glyceria striata (Lam.) Hitchc.


Plant Family
Poaceae (Grasses)

Garden Location


Prime Season
Late June to August


Grass structure and definitions - PDF from Oregon State University

Ligule Types, Shapes & Margins (pdf)


Fowl Mannagrass is a variable sized perennial with stems (culms) being 12 to 50 inches high. Some plants will be slender and tall with open flowering heads while in other locations a plant may short and stout with relatively closed heads.

The leaf blades are flat, often folded into a shallow M or W shape, erect to ascending, up to 12 inches long and up to 3/16 inches wide (2 to 6 mm) - this would be shorter and narrower than American Mannagrass, G. grandis. The upper surface is usually a bit rough.

Sheaths & Ligules: The leaf sheath is smooth to slightly rough, keeled, and closed for most of its length. The ligule is short, up to 4 mm long, and usually rounded. Both sheath and ligule are without hair.

Inflorescence: The flowering heads are panicles 2.5 to 8 inches long (6-25 cm) and almost as wide at the base. Branches of the panicle can be ascending at their base, but lower branches are widespread, divergent and drooping at maturity. Panicle branches have 15 to 50 spikelets, usually crowded in the upper 2/3 rds of the branch.

Spikelets are 1.8 to 4 mm long and 1.2 to 2.9 mm wide, flattened, oval in side view, and containing 3 to 7 florets. There are two short whitish glumes with raised veins; the glumes 1.5 times longer than wide, the lower shorter, length from 0.5 to 1.0 mm long. The lemmas are about 2 mm long, ovate in front view, purplish and have 7 prominent nerves. Anthers number 2, purple or yellow.

Varieties: Some authorities recognize two varieties - var. striata and var. stricta - depending on stem thickness and leaf blade width, but Minnesota authorities do not recognize these as separate plants.


Habitat: Fowl Mannagrass is found in the moist areas of shorelines, marshes, wetlands, moist wood and occasionally in shallow fresh water. It grows from a rhizome and forms tussocks.

Names: The genus name, Glyceria, is Greek for 'sweet', which is the taste of the grain and which is palatable. The species name, striata , means 'striped', referring the the prominent veins of the lemmas. The common name "mannagrass" is a somewhat biblical reference. An older no longer accepted name is Glyceria nervata.

The author names for the plant classification are as follows: The first to publish a classification was ‘Lam.’ which refers to Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744-1829) French naturalist and biologist, an early proponent of evolution who among other things, published the 3 volume Flore Francaise. He is best known for his theory of the inheritance of acquired characteristics. His work was amended by ‘Hitchc.’ which refers to Albert Spear Hitchcock (1865-1935) American botanist and agrostologist (one who studies grasses). He worked for USDA, authored more than 250 works, including the important Manual of the grasses of the United States.

Comparisons: There are two Glyceria species in the Garden - G. grandis, American Mannagrass, and G. striata. They are both plants of wet or moist areas. The two species can be easily confused with each other as both have spikelets that are short (less than 1 cm) and flattened. The key differences are in the details of the glumes and spikelet length, which is much longer in G. grandis. American Mannagrass also has leaf sheaths that are open for over half of their length, flowering heads are longer, 6 to 16 inches long (16 to 42 cm), branches spreading to drooping. One of the other more confusing species in North America will be G. elata, which exists in the western part of the range of G. striata. However, G. elata is a larger plant with larger panicles, spikelets 3 to 6 mm long instead of 1.8 to 4 mm. Without looking at specifics, the two plants look alike.

See bottom of page for notes on the Garden's planting history, distribution in Minnesota and North America, lore and other references.

Fowl mannagrass plant Drawing

Above: Plant showing the spreading and nodding panicle branches. Drawing by Cindy Roche, University of Utah.

Below: Spikelet detail, photo ©Anna Gardner, University of Iowa. Drawing courtesy of USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States.

floret drawing

Below: Spikelets in different development states: 1st photo in flower early Summer, 2nd & 3rd photos, mid-Summer, 4th photo - late Summer.

spikelets in flower Summer spikelets Summer spikelets and lemmas fall spikelets

Below: 1st photo - late Summer seed grains. 2nd photo - stem sheath and ligure area.

seeds sheath

Below: 1st photo - leaf blade upper surface. 2nd photo - leaf blade underside.

leaf section leaf underside


Notes: Fowl Mannagrass is indigenous to the Garden. Eloise Butler catalogued it in her early Garden records using the nomenclature of the time - Glyceria nervata. Fowl Mannagrass is one of four species of Glyceria usually found in the state: The four are: G. borealis, Small floating mannagrass; G. canadensis, Rattlesnake mannagrass; G. grandis, American Mannagrass; and G. striata, Fowl Mannagrass.

Fowl Mannagrass is a native perennial that grows in all of Canada and in all of the United States. In is found in Minnesota throughout the state with about a dozen county exceptions, most of those in the SW Quadrant. There are about 35 species of Glyceria worldwide of which in North America there are 13 native and 3 introduced. All grow in wet areas and the native species are consumed by livestock, but are not abundant enough for major grazing use.

References and site links

References: Plant characteristics are generally from sources 1A, 32, W2, W3, W7 & W8 plus others as specifically applied. Distribution principally from W1, W2 and 28C. Planting history generally from 1, 4 & 4a. Other sources by specific reference. See Reference List for details.

graphicIdentification booklet for most of the flowering forbs and small flowering shrubs of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Details Here.