Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wild Columbine

Aquilegia canadensis, Wild Columbine. This attractive member of the Ranunculaceae is beginning to put on a show in the Midwest. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Trillium cernuum and Trillium flexipes

Often confused with the similar Trillium flexipes, the first two photos below are Trillium cernuum.  Look closely at the stamens... the anthers and filaments are approximately the same length.  In Trillium flexipes, the anthers are much longer than the filaments.  The ranges of the two species sometimes overlap, but Trillium cernuum is generally a more northern species, whereas Trillium flexipes is generally more southern. 

The photos above are from Bog Meadow Nature Trail in Saratoga County, New York, May 21, 2014.

For comparison, here are four photos of Trillium flexipes. The first was taken at Turkey Run State Park, Parke County, Indiana, May 3, 2008.  The next three were taken at Bendix Woods Nature Preserve, St. Joseph County, Indiana - the first two on May 5, 2013 and the last on April 25, 2009.  Again, take a close look at the anther to filament ratio. The anthers are much longer than the filaments in Trillium flexipes

I tend to think that the anther to filament ratio is a better way to distinguish these two similar species than the actual length of the filaments.  Many references use a filament length of up to 2 or 2.5 mm for Trillium flexipes in their keys, but if you dissect the flower you often can find filaments that are longer than 2.5 mm.  In fact, I would be willing to bet that the filaments in the first through third photos of Trillium flexipes above have filaments longer than 2.5 mm (I can see them pretty easily without even dissecting the flowers). 

All of this said, I have seen specimens in northern Indiana that are somewhat intermediate between the two species, so the distinctions are not always as black-and-white as they are in these photos.

Monday, December 8, 2014

A YouTube Slide Show of Spring Wildflowers

It's not too early to be thinking ahead to spring. Some of these ephemerals were photographed on March 11.

A special thanks to fellow blogger Keith Board, botanist, photographer, cabinet maker, carpenter, educator, friend, and field companion, who has been, and continues to be, a rich source of inspiration in my photographic and botanical pursuits.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Flax-leaved Aster

Flax-leaved Aster starts to flower pretty early for an aster, usually in late August. The leaves are very narrow and have scratchy-scabrous hairs, giving them an interesting feel. Look for this beautiful native in sandy black oak savannas in northern Indiana. Photographed on September 2, 2014 in Starke County, Indiana.  

Friday, November 14, 2014

A YouTube Video

Depicting all of Indiana's native orchids as accounted for in Orchids of Indiana by Mike Homoya

This video represents more than eight years of orchid hunting and photography of Indiana's native orchids. It includes six species now considered to be extirpated from the state. Three of those were photographed by me in Michigan, Ohio, and Washington. The remaining three by friends in Michigan and Ohio, Aaron Strouse, and Andrew Lane Gibson. Derek Luchik contributed the photo of Spiranthes ochroleuca.



Monday, November 3, 2014

With Botanical Royalty

On Friday before the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society (INPAWS) Annual Conference in Bloomington, Indiana, I made a stop at the Indiana University Herbarium.  I knew that Paul Rothrock and Jerry Wilhelm would be there, and I'd planned on going through some specimens with them for a few hours on Friday afternoon.  That great opportunity was made even better when I arrived and found that Roger Hedge and Lee Casebere were also spending the afternoon in the herbarium!  A bit later, Michael Huft and Charlotte Gyllenhaal showed up.  What a day!
At Indiana University Herbarium. Back row from left: Paul Rothrock, Jerry Wilhelm, Roger Hedge, Scott Namestnik; front row from left: Lee Casebere, Michael Huft.  Photo by Charlotte Gyllenhaal.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Cyperus odoratus

I recently published a post discussing the differences between two commonly confused species in the genus Cyperus, C. esculentus and C. strigosus.  In that post, I mentioned a third species that can be confused with these, C. odoratus.  After seeing C. odoratus today, I thought it would be useful to include some photos of this species for comparison with the previous two.

Cyperus odoratus inflorescence
The spikelets of C. odoratus are similar in color to those of C. esculentus, often having an orangeish hue, turning brown upon maturation.  The spikelets are often more dense in the inflorescence than in C. esculentus, but not as densely packed as those in C. strigosus.

Three Cyperus odoratus spikelets
As in C. esculentus and C. strigosus, the spikelets of C. odoratus consist of several flowers, each of which is subtended by a scale.  Each scale is similar in length to those of C. esculentus, ranging from approximately 2-3 mm (the scales of C. strigosus are 3-4 mm long).

The spikelets of Cyperus odoratus disarticulate below the scales of individual flowers (Steve Sass hand model)
One of the main morphological differences between C. odoratus and C. esculentus is that, when mature, the spikelets of the former disarticulate below each scale, whereas those of the latter disarticulate at the base of the lowest flower only.  To see this, pull on the end of the spikelet and see if it breaks off somewhere along the spikelet (C. odoratus) or if the entire spikelet breaks off as a unit (C. esculentus).  Be sure to try this with numerous spikelets, not just one.

Base of Cyperus odoratus
Yet another way to distinguish between C. odoratus and C. esculentus is to look at the base of the plant.  In the former, there aren't many leaves coming from the base of the plant, whereas the leaves in the latter are heavily basally disposed.  In addition, C. odoratus does not produce the tubers often produced by C. esculentus.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Two Common (and Commonly Confused) Cyperus

The graminoids (mostly the grasses, sedges, and rushes) have a reputation for being difficult to identify to species, but it really just takes some time and understanding of the parts that the keys are describing.  The families should be easy to distinguish.  Rushes (Juncaceae) have sepals and petals (or collectively tepals) surrounding the pistil and stamens, giving them, on a minute scale, the look of a "typical" regular flower such as a lily.  Grasses (Poaceae) and sedges (Cyperaceae) have flowers that are evolutionarily advanced and consist of just the most important parts for reproduction, the pistil and the stamens; the perianth is highly modified in these families and doesn't look like what you would think of as petals and sepals.  In the grasses, the flower is usually subtended by two bracts, known as the lemma and palea, and each floret (as these structures are known collectively) or group of florets is subtended by additional bracts known as glumes (usually two, sometimes one or absent).  In the sedges, the flower is subtended by a single bract, called a scale.  Grasses (nearly all of them, at least) have hollow stems with solid nodes.  Most sedges have solid or pith-filled stems without swollen nodes.  Most grasses have overlapping sheaths; sedges have fused sheaths.  Grass leaves are typically flat or rolled; sedge leaves are usually V- or W-shaped in cross-section.  There are other differences, but understanding these basic differences should at least get you in the right family.

As far as sedges go, Carex is the most diverse genus.  Being able to recognize groups or sections of the genus that have similar characteristics is often a very helpful tool because it allows you to narrow down your species options substantially.  Some of the other more species rich genera in the family Cyperaceae include Scirpus, Eleocharis, and Cyperus.  In the genus Cyperus, the flowers are perfect and there are no perigynia (paper-like sacs surrounding the female flowers) as there are in the genus Carex.  The scales subtending the flowers in Cyperus are folded in half, not flat or rounded as they are in many other genera.  Morphologically, the genus that looks most similar to Cyperus in the United States is Dulichium.  The flowers on plants in the genus Cyperus lack the long persistent styles (the tubercles) that are present in flowers on plants in the genus Dulichium, and Dulichium has axillary inflorescences whereas Cyperus has terminal inflorescences.

Within the genus Cyperus, as within the genus Carex, the species can be organized into several natural groups (subgenera) that share morphological characteristics.  Within subgenus Cyperus, which has flowers with three stigmas (as opposed to two), spikelets along a conspicuous rachis (as opposed to being in digitate or glomerulate heads), and rachilla (the axis to which the flowers are attached) that disconnect from the rachis (the axis to which the spikelets attach) only at the base (as opposed to having rachilla that disconnect beneath each scale), two of the most commonly confused species in the Great Lakes region are Cyperus esculentus and Cyperus strigosusCyperus odoratus is also often confused with these two species, but it is taxonomically placed into subgenus Diclidium because the rachilla disconnect beneath each scale, not at the base of the spikelet.  If you pull on a spikelet of a species in subgenus Diclidium from the end of the spikelet, the spikelet will break somewhere in the middle; pulling on a spikelet of a species in subgenus Cyperus from the end of the spikelet will result in the entire spikelet being removed from the rachis in an intact unit.

Cyperus esculentus inflorescence and leaves
With all of that background information, now we can look at Cyperus esculentus versus Cyperus strigosus to see the differences between these commonly confused sedges.  First take a look at the inflorescences.  Usually, Cyperus esculentus has spikelets that are orangish in color (see photo above), as compared to the yellowish or straw-colored spikelets of Cyperus strigosus (see photo below).  In addition, the spikelets of Cyperus esculentus aren't usually packed into the inflorescence as tightly as those of Cyperus strigosus.

Cyperus strigosus inflorescence
Next, let's look at the scales subtending each flower in the spikelets.  In the two photographs below, the structure in my hand is a  single spikelet, made up of several flowers, each subtended by a scale.

Cyperus esculentus spikelet
Without a ruler for scale, it's a bit difficult to see the difference in the length of the floral scales.  However, you should be able to tell that in the Cyperus esculentus spikelet photo (above), the scales are shorter (approximately 2-3 mm long) than those in Cyperus strigosus (3-4 mm long).  Although this difference isn't much, with some experience, you can begin to notice the short scales of Cyperus esculentus and the "long" scales of Cyperus strigosus on a quick inspection with a hand lens.

Cyperus strigosus spikelet
Yet another difference in the two species can be seen by looking at the base of the plants.

Base and roots of Cyperus esculentus
In Cyperus esculentus, the base of the plant (where the stem meets the roots) is soft and lacks a bulb (see photo above).  Often, at least later in the season, you can find tubers at the ends of some of the roots.  In contrast, Cyperus strigosus has a distinctly bulbous base (see photo below) and lacks any tuberous protrusions on the roots.

Base and roots of Cyperus strigosus
Another difference between the two species that can somewhat be seen in the first set of photos is that Cyperus esculentus is leafy at the base, whereas Cyperus strigosus is not leafy at the base.  In the first two photos, you can see a lot of leaves in the Cyperus esculentus photo, but the leaves are mostly absent in the Cyperus strigosus photo.  The foliage of Cyperus esculentus is also usually shiny and yellow-green, whereas that of Cyperus strigosus are not as shiny.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Plant Quiz - Answer

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Anyone able to ID this plant from what is shown in this photograph? 


There were several good guesses, and BOUCUR got the genus correct (Valeriana), but no one figured out the species.  Here is what it would have looked like in flower...

This is Valeriana uliginosa (Marsh Valerian), a species of fens primarily in the Great Lakes region. Because of its rarity, V. uliginosa is a species of conservation concern in most of the states in which it occurs.  In the quiz photo, the "plumose pappus-like" structures are actually the calyx lobes, which are inrolled when the plant is in flower and expanded when it goes to fruit. 

Asclepias exaltata

When most people think of milkweed habitat, they think of prairie or old field areas.  Asclepias exaltata defies that logic, growing in woodlands and forests. 

Asclepias exaltata, June 8, 2014, Starved Rock State Park, LaSalle County, Illinois

Friday, June 20, 2014

Grass Identification and Ecology Workshop to be Offered at The Morton Arboretum


Tired of seeing "unknown grass" and "Dichanthelium sp." on your vegetation sampling datasheets?  Need to know what species that Elymus is to figure out if you're in a wetland or an upland?  Interested in learning vegetative characteristics for some of our more common grasses?  Just want to know more about grass identification and ecology in general?  If the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the workshop discussed below being held on August 21-22, 2014 at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois may be for you.  If you have any questions about the workshop, email Scott Namestnik at

Learn to identify the grasses that add beauty and interest to the summer and fall landscape. Grasses allow us to read the landscape: from soils, habitat, disturbance and past land uses. They form a critical component of the biodiversity and with nearly 11,000 species, this is the fourth largest plant family. This workshop consists of an intensive, hands-on approach incorporating both classroom work and field study.  Identify warm season grasses in the field and lab, learn the specialized terminology and distinguishing features, discuss their ecology, and practice identifying species from keys.

Instructor: Scott Namestnik, senior botanist, Orbis Environmental Consulting
Notes: Held both indoors and outdoors. Please dress for the weather each day. Limit 20
Supplies: Please bring a water bottle, a hand lens, and wear sturdy, closed-toed shoes for walking over uneven terrain. Fee includes all workshop handouts, morning refreshments and a box lunch.
Intended audience: Advanced students and professionals.
Certificate information: Can be used as a Naturalist Certificate, WSP elective (14 hours)
Prerequisites: Prior experience with plant identification required
Course number: S318

Thursday, August 21 and Friday, August 22, 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Botany Lab, Research Center, The Morton Arboretum

Nonmembers: Fees include admission to the Arboretum.
$150.00 members
$176.00 nonmembers
$50.00 students; call 630-719-2468 or email for student rate


CALL: 630-719-2468
IN PERSON: Stop by the Visitor Center during open hours.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Plant Quiz - Answered

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Hopefully you haven't forgotten about us here at Get Your Botany On!  Sorry for the long delay between posts.  Here's a quick plant quiz to hold you over until our next more lengthy post.  Good luck!


The Phytophactor answered correctly that this plant is Geocaulon lividum of the family Santalaceae.  Like other members of this family, False Toadflax, as this species is known, is a hemiparasite that produces haustoria that attach to roots of host plants to obtain a portion of its nutrients. 

Geocaulon lividum
Geocaulon lividum is a northern species found throughout much of Canada and Alaska, barely reaching into the contiguous United States.  Because of this geographical distribution, it is a species of conservation concern in several states.  It grows in wet to moist conditions, such as in bogs, fens, and coniferous or deciduous forests, but also on sandy or rocky ridges or dunes near the Great Lakes.  The genus name Geocaulon means "earth" (Geo-) and "stem of the plant" (-caulon), which is a reference to the long slightly subterranean stems (rhizomes).  The specific epithet lividum means "lead-colored," which could be a reference to the flowers, which range from green to purple in color.

Geocaulon lividum
Geocaulon lividum has been treated as a member of the genus Comandra (Comandra lividum), and anyone familiar with the genus Comandra can easily see why.  It differs from Comandra in having green to purple flowers (versus white in Comandra), axillary inflorescences (versus terminal in Comandra), and orange-red fruit more than 7 mm in diameter (versus green to yellowish fruit up to 6 mm in diameter in Comandra).  In each cymule on a Geocaulon lividum plant, the central flower is perfect, whereas the other one to two flowers are staminate; Comandra has all flowers perfect in each cymule.  For comparison, Comandra umbellata is pictured below.  Vegetatively, Geocaulon lividum may be confused with a member of the genus Vaccinium, which would have woody stems and leaves with different venation and texture.

Comandra umbellata
The photographs of Geocaulon lividum above were taken on June 22, 2013 in Copper Harbor, Michigan.  Nice call, Phytophactor!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Asclepias ovalifolia

Asclepias ovalifolia is a milkweed of prairies, barrens, savannas, and open woodlands in the Upper Midwest.

Asclepias ovalifolia
See my recent post at Through Handlens and Binoculars for more information on this and other milkweeds.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Furbish Lousewort ( (Pedicularis furbishiae) Poem Charles Osgood, CBS newsman, 1977. From “Nothing Could Be Finer Than a Crisis that is Minor in the Morning” by Charles Osgood, 1979.

Quoted in Robert Mohlenbrock’s book, “Where Have All the Wildflowers Gone,” 1983. 

Kate Furbish was a woman who a century ago
Discovered something growing, and she classified it so
That botanists thereafter, in their reference volumes state,
That the plant’s a Furbish lousewort. See, they named it after Kate.
There were other kinds of louseworts, but the Furbish one was rare.
It was very near extinction, when they found out it was there.
And as the years went by, it seemed with ravages of weather,
The poor old Furbish louseworts simply vanished altogether.
But then in 1976, our bicentennial year,
Furbish lousewort fanciers had some good news they could cheer.
For along the St. John’s River, guess what somebody found?
Two hundred fifty Furbish louseworts growing in the ground.
Now, the place where they were growing, by the St. John’s River banks,
Is not a place where you or I would want to live, no thanks.
For in that very area, there was a mighty plan,
An engineering project for the benefit of man.
The Dickey-Lincoln Dam it’s called, hydroelectric power.
Energy, in other words, the issue of the hour.
Make way, make way for progress now, man’s ever constant urge.
And where those Furbish louseworts were, the dam would just submerge.
The plants can’t be transplanted; they simply wouldn’t grow.
Conditions for the Furbish louseworts have to be just so.
And for reasons far too deep for me to know or explain,
The only place they can survive is in that part of Maine.
So, obviously it was clear, that something had to give,
And giant dams do not make way so that a plant can live.
But hold the phone, for yes they do. Indeed they must, in fact.
There is a law, the Federal Endangered Species Act,
And any project such as this, though mighty and exalted,
If it wipes out threatened animals or plants, it must be halted.
And since the Furbish lousewort is endangered as can be,
They had to call the dam off; couldn’t build it, don’t you see.
For to flood that lousewort haven, where the Furbishes were at,
Would be to take away their only extant habitat.
And the only way to save the day, to end this awful stall
Would be to find some other louseworts, anywhere at all.
And sure enough, as luck would have it, strange though it may seem,
They found some other Furbish louseworts growing just downstream.
Four tiny little colonies, one with just a single plant.
So now they’ll flood that major zone, no one can say they can’t.
And construction is proceeding, and the dynamite goes bam.
And most folks just don’t seem to give a Dickey-Lincoln Dam.
The newfound stands of Furbish louseworts aren’t much, but then
They were thought to be extinct before, and may well be again.
Because the Furbish lousewort has a funny-sounding name,
It was ripe for making ridicule, and that’s a sort of shame.
For there is a disappearing world, and man has played his role
In taking little parts away from what was once the whole.
We can get along without them; we may not feel their lack.
But extinction means that something’s gone, and never coming back.
So, here’s to you, little lousewort, and here’s to your rebirth.
And may you somehow multiply, refurbishing the earth.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Triadenum virginicum

Time to start catching up on photos from this growing season.
Back in late July, Lindsay and I joined a group from Save the Dunes on a quick trip to Pinhook Bog in LaPorte County, Indiana.  Led by staff from Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, the walk down the boardwalk and back was very brief and only touched on the unique bog flora, but I used a free second to take a couple of photographs of a plant that I admire but don't see very often, Triadenum virginicum (Virginia Marsh St. John's Wort).
Triadenum virginicum in Pinhook Bog.
The most concentrated area of the geographical range of Triadenum virginicum is the New England region of the United States (and north into Canada).  The range of the species follows the Atlantic Coast south, around Florida, and along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to Texas.  Like several other species with which it often grows, this modest pink-flowered plant is also disjunct in the Great Lakes region, making it a unique part of the flora in this part of the country.  Triadenum virginicum grows in bogs, interdunal swales, and wet meadows.

Note the pointed sepals and "long" styles of Triadenum virginicum.
A very similar species, Triadenum fraseri (Fraser's Marsh St. John's Wort), has a geographical range that overlaps with that of T. virginicum, but T. fraseri is found more in the Great Lakes and New England regions and north, without an affinity to the coastal plain.  It has been treated as a variety of T. virginicum in the past, but most botanists now consider the two to be distinct species.  The sepals of T. virginicum are longer (greater than or equal to 5 mm long versus up to 5 mm long in T. fraseri) and sharper pointed (acute to acuminate versus obtuse in T. fraseri), and the styles are longer in T. virginicum (more than 1.5 mm long versus less than 1.5 mm long in T. fraseri).  In addition, T. fraseri is rarely found with open flowers in the field (but they are said to open after spending an afternoon in a vasculum!), whereas it is not uncommon to see T. virginicum with open flowers.

Plants in the genus Triadenum were formerly treated as part of the genus Hypericum, but they are now distinguished from Hypericum due to petal and stamen characteristics.  The petals of Triadenum are pink or flesh-colored (versus yellow in Hypericum).  The stamens of Triadenum are in three groups of three and alternate with three large orange glands (versus being of various number and lacking glands in the flowers of Hypericum).  This unique characteristic of the flowers of plants in the genus Triadenum is the origin of their Latin name, as Triadenum means "three glands."

Monday, October 28, 2013

Plant Quiz - Answered

I recently posted the following plant quiz...
Been a while... how about a cropped photo plant quiz?

Good luck!

Ben and DenPro both correctly responded that this is a close-up of Clematis virginiana, Virgin's Bower.  Here's the original photo, prior to being cropped...

Note the plumose styles of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
... and here's another photo showing the feathery inflorescences made up of numerous plumose styles when the plant is in fruit.  Like most plants I've noticed this fall, Clematis virginiana seemed to flower and fruit profusely this year.

The dense inflorescence of Clematis virginiana in fruit.
During the summer, Clematis virginiana looks like this, a vine with flowers in axillary panicles, each with four white to cream-colored petaloid sepals, no petals, and numerous pistils in female flowers and stamens in male flowers.  The leaves are compound, often with three leaflets, each of which is toothed on the margins. The similar looking Clematis ternifolia, an invasive species from Asia, has five leaflets that are entire or merely crenate on the margins.

Clematis virginiana in flower.
Clematis virginiana grows in moist thickets, in wooded and open floodplains, and along fencerows throughout the eastern half of North America.  Taxonomically, it is placed in the family Ranunculaceae.

Nice job, Ben and DenPro!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Sassafras Color

One of my favorite trees is Sassafras albidum. It’s a native of dry sand country and adds a lot of color and character to black oak savannas.  The leaves occur in three different types: one lobe, two lobes, and three lobes. The crushed leaves and twigs have an unusual but pleasant smell. The cut wood is beautiful and has a pungent chemical smell that is also very good. And of course, the roots have that wonderful root beer smell and flavor, long cherished for sassafras tea. Experts now say the tea can cause stomach cancer, but I’m starting to think so does breathing the air and drinking the water.

Of this remarkable and very attractive tree, Thoreau wrote the following: "The odoriferous sassafras, with its delicate green stem, its three-lobed leaf, tempting the travelers to bruise it, it sheds so rare a perfume on him, equal to all the spices of the East. Then its rare-tasting root bark, like nothing else, which I used to dig. The first navigators freighted their ships with it and deemed it worth its weight in gold."   Henry David Thoreau - journal entry, August 31, 1850.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bottle Gentian

This picture of Gentiana andrewsii is posted for comparison to the Soapwort Gentian posted earlier. This attractive plant often grows in aspen thickets on damp, sandy soil. Compared to Soapwort Gentian, this plant has darker blue flowers that are more tapering into the summit, and this plant tends to grow 2 or 3 times taller. I'm sure that someone who never leaves their lab (and has never gotten their feet muddy or received a mosquito bite) has renamed it, but it is Gentiana andrewsii and always will be. I have a very large botanical library that says it is G. andrewsii

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Foredune Invader in Disguise

The foredunes along Lake Michigan are home to an interesting early successional plant community, but one that is not terribly diverse.  This ecological zone was part of the renowned studies on primary succession conducted by Henry Chandler Cowles at the end of the 19th Century.  Marram Grass (Ammophila breviligulata), a colonizer that both serves to help stabilize the sand dunes and that requires the moving sand for its own survival, is by far the dominant plant species on these first dunes back from the lake, and other colonizers such as Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), American Searocket (Cakile edentula), and Seaside Sandmat (Chamaesyce polygonifolia) take advantage of the stabilization work done by the rhizomes of Marram Grass.  Just a handful of additonal species are commonly found in the pure beach sand of these foredune communities.

Foredune vegetation along Lake Michigan consists maily of Marram Grass and Eastern Cottonwood, but take note of the glaucous-leaved grass on the left side of the photograph.
Marram Grass is native in counties surrounding the Great Lakes, as well as along the Atlantic coast of the United States.  It also has been introduced in a few counties along the Pacific coast.  Ammophila means "sand lover," a reference to its propensity to grow in pure sand. 

Marram Grass inflorescence with foliage in background.
The inflorescence of Marram Grass consists of a dense spikelike panicle. Within that panicle are numerous one-flowered spikelets that are each between 8 and 15 mm long. These spikelets are so tightly packed into the inflorescence that they are barely visible without very close inspection.

Close-up of the dense panicle of Marram Grass.
The leaf blades of Marram Grass are green on the dorsal side and somewhat glaucous and scabrous on the ventral side.  They range from 4 to 8 mm wide when flat, but they are soon involute, making them appear much narrower.  The basal sheaths are often pinkish in color.

Base of Marram Grass stems.
So what is the deal with the blue-green leaves on the foredune pictured below?  Unfortunately, this photograph is showing Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius, formerly called Elymus arenarius), a recently introduced European grass that is quickly invading the foredunes along the Great Lakes.  In the Chicago region, Lyme Grass was first collected in the 1940s invading dunes in Berrien County, Michigan.  Since that time, it has been documented in nearly all of the Chicago region counties bordering Lake Michigan.

The glaucous foliage and wider leaves of Lyme Grass make it stand out against a backdrop of the green, narrow leaves of Marram Grass.
The distribution of Lyme Grass in North America is currently dominated by counties bordering Lake Michigan, with records from a few scattered counties bordering other Great Lakes and the Atlantic Ocean.  The genus name is an anagram created from the genus name "Elymus."  Superficially, Lyme Grass can resemble Marram Grass, and it is possible that it has been overlooked by those unfamiliar with the species. That said, there are some distinct differences between the two species.
Close-up of the densely packed, more conspicuous spikelets of Lyme Grass.
The inflorescence of Lyme Grass consists of a dense spike with usually two spikelets per node. Within that spike are two- to five-flowered spikelets that are each between 12 and 30 mm long. These spikelets are much more conspicuous within the inflorescence than are those of Marram Grass.

Lyme Grass inflorescence.
The flat leaf blades of Lyme Grass are approximately 1 cm wide.  They are distinctly and conspicously glaucous on both the ventral and dorsal sides.  The sheaths are not pinkish, but rather are glabrous and glaucous.

Base of Lyme Grass stems.
Unlike Marram Grass, which spreads by horizontal rhizomes, Lyme Grass has a more cespitose growth form that is not as efficient at stabilizing moving sand.  It is possible that as Lyme Grass becomes more abundant the structure of the foredunes and their characteristic vegetation communities could change as a result.  Unfortunately, Lyme Grass is still planted as a landscaping plant in sandy areas, increasing the likelihood of its continued spread along lakeshores and coastal areas outside of its native range.