Plants perennial; strongly rhizomatous or stoloniferous. Culms 20-65 cm, erect, bases much branched; nodes usually pilose or villous, sometimes glabrous; lower internodes glabrous. Sheaths glabrous, sometimes slightly scabrous; collars pilose at the edges; ligules 1.5-5 mm, often laciniate; blades 2-20 cm long, 2-4 mm wide, involute and curled when dry, sparsely villous behind the ligules, abaxial surfaces scabridulous, adaxial surfaces scabrous. Panicles 2-6 cm; fascicles 6-8 mm. Lateral spikelets with 3 staminate florets; glumes thin, membranous, lanceolate or parallel-sided, not conspicuously fused at the base, apices acute to rounded, often ciliate, veins rarely excurrent; lower glumes dorsally awned, awns exceeding the apices; anthers 3, about 5 mm. Central spikelets with 1 bisexual floret; glumes with excurrent veins forming distinct awns; lemmas exceeding the glumes, ciliate, the midveins sometimes excurrent. 2n = 18, 36.
Hilaria jamesii is endemic to the southwestern United States, and grows in deserts, canyons, and dry plains. It has medium grazing value but low palatability. It is usually less pubescent than H. rigida, the difference being most marked on the lower cauline nodes.
FNA 2007, Field Guide to Forest & Mtn. Plants of N AZ 2009, Ann. Checklist GCNP 1987
Common Name: James' galleta Duration: Perennial Nativity: Native Lifeform: Graminoid General: Tufted perennial grass, strongly rhizomatous or stoloniferous; stems 20-65 cm tall, usually erect, sometimes decumbent with well-branched bases; nodes often villous; lower internodes glabrous. Vegetative: Blades 2-20 cm long, 2-4 mm wide, flat near base, rolled near tip, curled when dry, with scabrous, sparse long hairs behind ligules; ligules 1-5 mm long; sheaths glabrous. Inflorescence: Panicles 2-6 cm long, spike-like, each branch with 3 spikelets against a zig-zagging axis, disarticulating as a unit; spikelets 6-8 mm long; lateral spikelets on each branch with 3 staminate flowers, central spikelet with 1 bisexual flower; glumes thin, membranous, often ciliate, 4-8 mm long, lower glumes awned, awns 1-5 mm long; lemmas ciliate, exceeding the glumes. Ecology: Found in canyons, deserts, dry plains, sandy plateaus, pinyon-juniper woodlands, sometimes in Ponderosa pine forests at 3,500-7,000 ft (1100-2100 m); flowers May-October. Distribution: CA, NV, AZ, UT, NM, CO, WY, TX, OK, and KS. Notes: The genus is distinguished by the rigid inflorescence spikes which produce groups of 3 sessile, awned spikelets, that when mature, have conspicuous tan-white wedge-shaped papery bracts (glumes) which often splay out. The 3 spikelets fall as a unit and leave a characteristic zig-zag naked seed stalk. H. jamesii is similar to H. rigida but is less pubescent, especially on the lower stem nodes. A common Coloado Plateau species, it has some grazing value but is considered to be less palatable than other grasses. Flora Neomexicana (2012) uses the name Pleuraphis jamesii for this taxon, while the Flora of North America uses the name Hilaria jamesii. Ethnobotany: Used to make coiled baskets and plaques, used as a brush, to treat colds, and as livestock feed. Etymology: Hilaria is named for Auguste St. Hilaire (1779-1853), a French naturalist; jamesii honors Edwin P. James (1797-1861), an American botanist, geologist and geographer who completed the first recorded ascent of Pike's Peak. Synonyms: Pleuraphis jamesii Editor: LKearsley 2012, AHazelton 2015