• Sorghastrum nutans - Indian Grass


    "Sorghastrum nutans, or Indiangrass, is a perennial, warm-season bunchgrass that can grow to 5 to 7 feet high. Although growth begins in the spring, it makes most of its growth between June and August and remains green until the first frost. Yellow flower panicles extend above the foliage in the late summer and fall. Indiangrass is native to the Southeastern United States, tolerates rocky and clay soil, naturalizes, and has yellow-orange fall color. It was one of the dominant grasses of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large parts of the Midwest. The plant provides excellent cover year round for birds and mammals, seeds are eaten by songbirds and the plant is highly resistant to deer grazing. 

    "The plant grows best in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. It tolerates a wide range of soils including heavy clays and does well in poor, dry, infertile soils. However, it does not do well in full shade. Indiangrass tends to open up and/or flop in moist, rich soils. It may naturalize by self-seeding in optimum growing conditions, but you can cut it back to the ground in late winter to early spring just before the new growth appears.It is a hardy plant able to withstand drought, erosion, dry soil, shallow-rocky soil, and air pollution."  (North Carolina Extension)


    Sorghastrum Nutans Botany  - By John Hilty


    Botanical illustration (WA State Library)

    Indian grass seedhead. (Lavin)

    Faunal associations:

    Food source for grasshoppers, which are then a food source for "many insectivorous songbirds and upland game birds" (Hilty). "Because of its height and tendency to remain erect, it provides nesting habitat and protective cover for many kinds of birds, including the Ring-necked Pheasant, Greater Prairie Chicken, Northern Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, and Field Sparrow (see Walkup, 1991; Best, 1978)."





    (1) Adult male Northern Bobwhite (BS Thurner Hof)
    (2) Mourning dove (Joe Ferreira)
    (3) Field Sparrow (Andy Morffew)
    (4) Greater Prairie Chicken (Ron Knight)


    Indian Grass uses according to USDA:
    • Erosion control: Indiangrass can be used on critical area seeding, for roadside cover, and on areas subject to wind erosion.
    • Livestock: Indiangrass can be used singly or in mixtures for livestock forage on rangeland, pastureland, and hayland.
    • Wildlife: Indiangrass is excellent for wildlife habitat and food for deer. 

    Type: Ornamental grass
    Family: Poaceae
    Native Range: Eastern and central United States
    Zone: 4 to 9
    Height: 3.00 to 5.00 feet
    Spread: 1.00 to 2.00 feet
    Bloom Time: September to February
    Bloom Description: Light brown with yellow stamens
    Sun: Full sun
    Water: Dry to medium
    Maintenance: Medium
    Suggested Use: Naturalize
    Flower: Good Dried
    Leaf: Good Fall
    Attracts: Birds
    Other: Winter Interest
    Tolerate: Drought, Erosion, Dry Soil, Shallow-Rocky Soil, Black Walnut, Air Pollution

    Works Cited

    Cover: "10320 Indian Grass" by lcm1863 is licensed under CC BY 2.0
    Second cover: By Mason Brock (Masebrock) - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32023583
    Third cover: By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA - Sorghastrum nutansUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25134719
    Fourth cover: "Sorghastrum nutans - Indian grass" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    North Carolina Extension description:  Sorghastrum Nutans (Indiangrass, Yellow Indiangrass) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox. https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/sorghastrum-nutans/. Accessed 16 Feb. 2022.

     is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
    By Matt Lavin from Bozeman, Montana, USA - Sorghastrum nutansUploaded by Jacopo Werther, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25138554

    Faunal Associations:
     Northern Bobwhite: "Northern Bobwhite" by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0
    Mourning Dove: By Joe Ferreira, California Department of Fish and WildlifeCC BY-SA 2.0 <https://www.flickr.com/photos/41723647@N08/14920960545>
    Field Sparrow: "Field Sparrow" by Andy Morffew is licensed under CC BY 2.0
    Greater Prarie Chicken: "Greater Prairie Chicken (Tympanuchus cupido)" by Ron Knight, sussexbirder, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Hilty, John. Grasses, Sedges, Rushes, & Non-Flowering Plants. http://www.illinoiswildflowers.info/grasses/grass_index.htm#ind_grass. Accessed 21 Jan. 2022.

    Information and images compiled by Erik N. Vegeto

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