Worldwide there are over 100 species of Eragrostis. Derived from the Greek, Eragrostis translates to love grass (“eros” meaning “love” and “agrostis” meaning a “kind of grass”). So technically, all of the species in this genus are “lovegrasses”. I originally learned that the common name for Eragrostis cilianensis was lovegrass. Many reference materials also call this species lovegrass. I continue to use that name even though it may not be absolutely correct. Other colloquial names for this species are stinkgrass and candy-grass.
Introduced from Eurasia, lovegrass has spread throughout North America and can be found in fields, disturbed soils, other waste places and along roadsides. A vigorous plant that can produce thousands of seeds, lovegrass is invasive and is often considered a noxious weed.
An annual, lovegrass has minute blister-like glands on its foliage that produce a strong scent when fresh. The leaves are often folded and the ligule (outgrowth at the base of the grass blade) is a fringe of straight hairs. The inflorescence of lovegrass does not have awns (bristlelike appendages). Lovegrass seeds shatter at maturity and resemble tiny, naked, egg-shaped grains.
Lovegrass has little forage value. Cattle avoid eating lovegrass. There are also a few reports that lovegrass may be poisonous to horses if eaten in quantity. This is entirely speculation on our part, but Leonard and I were wondering if the lovegrass scent evolved as a protective strategy. Without awns, wildlife and livestock should find lovegrass palatable, but they do not graze extensively on this grass. The musty odor may resemble decaying grass, which grazers tend to avoid.
Eragrostis megastachya is another scientific name for E. cilianensis.
These plants were growing near our house in Lookout CA (Modoc County).