Poverty Oat Grass, Danthonia spicata, is a cool season bunchgrass native to Illinois and found throughout the state in higher quality habitats. Poverty Oat Grass grows in bunches which are often under a foot tall. The thin leaves can be smooth or hairy, and you can find two tufts of hairs at the top of the leaf sheath. The easiest identification characteristic is to look for tightly curled, corkscrew-shaped dead leaves gathered around the base of the bunch.
That's all I use to identify this grass; however when it flowers, you can look for a stem that is one to two feet tall, with a panicle in florescence. There are only a few awned spikelets per branch, and a small number of branches, so it's easy to miss this grass in bloom.
This video is part of the Grasses at a Glance series by Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Educator Erin Garrett, University of Illinois Extension. Explore the playlist. Read our blog, Grasses at a Glance.