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..
A tall erect grass with flat leaf-blades and erect spikes borne in a terminal panicle. Spike-lets 1-2-flowered, globose, compressed. Scales 3 or 4; the 2 lower empty, membranous, saccate, obtuse or abruptly acute; the flowering scales narrow, thin-membranous; palet hyaline, 2-keeled. Stamens 3. Styles distinct. Stigmas plumose. Grain oblong, free, enclosed in the scale and palet. [In honor of Johann Beckmann, 1739-1811, teacher of Natural History at St. Petersburg.]
A monotypic genus of the north temperate zone. Type species: Phalaris erucaeformis L.
Glabrous, culms 1 1/2°-3° tall, erect, simple, smooth. Sheaths longer than the internodes, loose; ligule 2"-4" long; blades 3'-9' long, 2"-4" wide, rough; panicle 4'-10' in length, simple or compound, the spikes about 1/2 long; spikelets i"-i 1/2" long, 1-2-flowered, closely imbricated in two rows on one side of the rachis; scales smooth, the outer saccate, obtuse or abruptly acute; flowering scales acute, the lower generally awn-pointed, the upper rarely present.
In wet places, western Ontario to Alaska, south to Iowa, Colorado and California. July-Sept.