This section is from the book "An Illustrated Flora Of The Northern United States, Canada And The British Possessions Vol1", by Nathaniel Lord Britton, Addison Brown. Also available from Amazon: An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 Volume Set..
Annual or perennial grasses with flat leaf-blades and spicate inflorescence. Spikelets 1-flowered. Scales 3; the 2 outer empty, membranous, compressed, keeled, the apex obliquely truncate, the midnerve produced into an awn; the third scale much shorter, broader, hyaline, truncate, denticulate at the summit; palet narrow, hyaline. Stamens 3. Styles distinct, somewhat elongated. Stigmas plumose. Grain ovoid, free, enclosed in the scale and palet. [Name Greek, taken from Pliny; originally applied to some very different plant.]
About 10 species, inhabiting the temperate zones of both hemispheres. The following only are natives of North America. The English name Cat's-tail Grass is applied to all the species. Type species: Phleum pratense L.
Spikes usually elongated, cylindric; awns less than one-half the length of the outer scales; upper
sheath not inflated.
Spikes not elongated,- ovoid to oblong and cylindric; awns about one-half the length of the outer
scales; upper sheath inflated.
Phleum pratense L. Sp. PI. 59. 1753.
Glabrous and smooth or very nearly so throughout, the culms 1°-4° tall erect, simple. Sheaths usually exceeding the internodes, sometimes shorter, the upper one long and not inflated, or very slightly so; ligule 1"-2" long, rounded; blades 3'-9' long, 2"-3" wide, smooth or scabrous; spike usually elongated, cylindric, 1 1/2'-7' in length, 2 1/2"- 4" in diameter; outer scales of the spikelet, exclusive of the awn, \\" long, ciliate on the keel, the awn less than half their length.
In fields and meadows nearly throughout North America. Also in Europe and Asia. Widely cultivated for hay. The scales are sometimes modified into small leaves. Meadow Cat's-tail. Rat-tail. Soldier's-feather. July-Aug.
Phleum alpinum L. Sp. PI. 59. 1753.
Glabrous, culms 6'-18' tall, erect or sometimes decumbent at the base, simple, smooth. Sheaths often much shorter than the internodes, sometimes longer, the upper one usually much inflated; ligule about 1" long, truncate; blades smooth beneath, scabrous above, the lower 2'-3' long, 1"-4" wide; upper leaf generally very short, less than 1' long; spike short, ovoid to oblong and cylindric, 1/2'-2' in length, 3"-6" in diameter; outer scales of the spikelet, exclusive of the awn, 1 1/2" long, strongly ciliate on the keel, the awn about one-half their length.
Labrador to Alaska, south to the mountains of New Hampshire, Vermont, Arizona and California. Also in northern Europe, Asia, and in Patagonia. Summer. Alpine cat's-tail.