Grass ID and advice needed!

adidas(6/7)April 11, 2014


Posted this on name that plant forum. Got 2 answers but thought I might get a more definitive answer here.

Andropogon virginicus


Schizachyrium scoparium ?

I would also like to spread this around a bit. How do you go about dividing a clump? Can you just drive a spade through the middle of an established clump, pull apart and separate? Also is this grass fairly shade tolerant? What puzzles me greatly is that I think I read that both of these provide deer fodder....however, NOTHING around here is safe from deer yet these clumps have survived...why? Thank-you for any insight!

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Its hard to tell all dried like that but its definitely not Little Bluestem, might be Big Bluestem or might be Indian Grass. Looks more like Big B.S.

I wouldn't try to divide it, you might kill it. If you move it, be sure to dig it up carefully with the rootball & dirt intact to disturb it as little as possible, you can really set them back when moving, the larger it is, the less it will like being moved. Also, keep checking around the area to see if any seedlings come up. Seeds usually need warm soil to germinate.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 7:44PM
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Thanks so much for the input! There are quite a few other clumps around. Most are smaller and they are far apart...they don't seem to grow in groups. The property is very rocky and I am battling stiltgrass. I thought if I could move some other grasses into the areas w/bare dirt and major stiltgrass infestation I might be able to block some of the stiltgrass. Does this sound possible? Not exactly sure what a seedling would look like...there seem to be larger clumps and smaller clumps.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 9:40PM
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I've moved a lot of grasses, when the clumps are small they usually move fine, I just relocated some clumps of blue grama. Mature ones don't move well. I'm not familiar with stiltgrass but I find I have to pull or dig out what I don't want with alien invaders to get rid of it, it takes some persistence but its possible. If its a heavy invasion in some spot I would use roundup after it greens up, then replant in the bare spots, depends on how heavy the invasion is & how difficult it is to pull or dig up the grass you want to get rid of.

I just googled stiltgrass. Its just an annual. That should make the job rather easy. Don't let it go to seed and/or pull it out as much as possible.

The only time you should never dig up a grass is when its blooming which is sure death usually. Early spring is the best time but you can do it later if you water it well. They usually go into dormancy after moving until the next season unless its very young shallow rooted seedlings.

I got rid of a whole lot full of bermuda using roundup & digging. Thats about as bad as it gets with grass.

Its very difficult to ID seedlings. I have gotten to where I recognize the types I grow. Little Bluestem has flat stems at the base & its blue for instance.

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Fri, Apr 11, 14 at 23:43

    Bookmark   April 11, 2014 at 11:40PM
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Thank-you so much for the advice! Whatever grass this is it seems to be tough...I unwittingly dug up some clumps growing around a boulder last summer along w/whatever grass is covering the ground in this area (not regular lawn grass but I know NOTHING about grass). I wanted to free up some blue cohosh,,,I left a clump of this stuff lying on top of the "waste" grass pile and it appears to have dug into the pile and rooted itself! Maybe it was ok because it was small and not flowering at the time? Anyway, I shall take your advice and stick to moving smaller clumps. Problem w/stiltgrass is that I'm not here during its growing season and by the time I come back it's gone to seed! So I'm trying to cut the amount of bare dirt (its favourite substrate) available to it! How easy is it to seed some of the native grasses? Would I have success tossing some seed around on bare dirt or would I have to take special measures? I know growth is slow but I have to start somewhere! Thanks again for your help!

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 6:59AM
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Most native grasses are fairly easy from seed. Warm season grass needs warm temps to germinate so its good to plant now,they will come up when the ground is warm enough. Cool season grasses need cool temps, its good to sow them in fall or early spring.

Little bluestem, sideoats grama & blue grama are typical prairie tuft grasses that are not real tall, each is very attractive & well behaved. Blue grama is the shortest, sideoats grama is the thickest & most robust, it forms nice tussocks in a couple years. These are all tough & since they are perennial you will cut down on the other weeds.

Seeds are not cheap. If you see a grass growing locally in the wild, you can collect seed for free in late summer. I started some of mine from 4" plants I bought from Santa Rosa Gardens. If you wait until the spring sale, the prices drop real low. A few plants would give you seed stock & is an easy way to start, they will naturalize by seeding about & you will have lots of plants the next year.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:36PM
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Adidas, I don't see the "turkey feet" on that grass which would tend to indicate Big Bluestem. Could be that this late, seedheads/inflorescences have fallen away-not sure.

I also see you are in a slightly warmer zone than I, but for sowing of native grass and forb seeds, we like to do a "frost seeding" which simply means, a sowing late enough in the fall that no germination will take place that year. Then, frost and freezing action over the subsequent winter both stratifies these seeds, which they need to have happen, and also places them at that perfect depth-just barely into the top of soil matrix.

It might not be too late for you to get some cold where you are-I just can't say for sure-but if that is so, you could indeed sow seeds now. But generally, you're better off waiting until later this coming fall.

I haven't lifted and divided native grass clumps but I've sure done it with common ornamental grasses like some of the Miscanthus, Korean Feather Reed, etc, and the method used is exactly what you ask about in initial post-dig out clump, cut into pieces with a good, sharp shovel, and replant. Super-duper simple.

Since you're not present at the site to mow when stilt grass is getting ready to produce seeds, maybe a pre-emergence herbicide could be a tool to use. Just depends on how many wanted species you've got there also, going to seed.


    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 8:01AM
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With all respect I disagree with wiscon. Most native or prairie grass seed doesn't need cold stratification, however, some perennial forbs do. If you are only sowing grass seed, sow warm season grasses in spring when the soil warms up, its the best time to do it because all they need is moisture & warm temps--you will get one season of growth & have nice sized plants by the second year. Birds will eat seed sown in fall & they will just lay dormant until the soil warms up, there is no benefit in fall sowing. Many native grasses hold onto their much of the seed until late winter, they then blow off or drop to the ground in spring and germinate then.

Cool season grass seed is best sown in fall, you get germination & the plants will winter over. It needs cool temps to germinate. You can also sow in late winter or early spring while its still cool

Exceptions are Indian Ricegrass & Prairie Dropseed. Both of these DO need cold stratification. Information on germination can be found online for different species.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 2:10PM
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Thank-you both. I'm not sure about "turkey feet"...not even sure where I'd look for those...I shall google. I thought that the grass resembled Andropogon virginicus but I defer to people who know their grasses ( I do not!) I agree w/Texas that it is probably a good idea to wait for the grass to start growing again before trying to id it. So, I shall post another pic later.

I have sown side oats grama (some last fall, some this spring). None of it has germinated! I am in a microclimate here, though, on a mt in Northern VA and we got down to 27 last night (surrounding areas were about 5 degs above us)so we do tend to be a few weeks behind the rest of the zone.

I have sown some sedges (this spring, in Feb) and I'm going to try sowing Juncus dudleyi (Dudley's Rush) and Juncus torreyi (Torrey's Rush) seeds in the next few weeks. Are these all warm weather grasses/forbes/sedges?

I try not to use chemicals because I am not sure what its impact would be on other plants . While it has not taken over the property per se the stiltgrass is widespread and I would need an awful lot to make a difference. I am experimenting this year w/mulching over last year's piles of dead stiltgrass. Then I shall try to leave the areas undisturbed and if I need to plant I'll cover w/more mulch. Not sure how effective this will be.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 4:24PM
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I'd have to look those sedges & rushes up, I don't know if its warm or cool.

You might need to prepare the area better. Mow what is there down as short as possible, remove thatch and/or use a hoe to remove competing roots & plants. You need good soil/seed contact & moisture for success. Tamp in seeds for good contact.

Advice is: disturb the soil as little as possible to avoid bringing up more seed that is lower down. An inch or so soil disturbance is recommended. Or, you can pull existing weeds. If there are thick weeds/grasses competing, your sowing efforts will not be very successful.

The grasses don't get that big the first year. You might have some that came up and not know it? Its hard to judge without seeing the situation. Grasses tend to look alike when young.

This is the "turkey foot", its named for the shape of the seed heads. You would have seen these last year in late summer through fall.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2014 at 5:04PM
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Thanks for the pic. I shall look for that...however, in examining the unknown grass more closely ...there are still some seeds present, yet no turkey feet. They seem to be clustered around the stems not in a formation on top of stems. Not sure if this makes sense.

I believe the rushes I mentioned are cold another (maybe silly) question...I grow many plants, trees, shrubs from seed either winter sow in containers or stratify in bags in fridge. If you have a cold season grass species is it possible to stratify in fridge and start in a container then plant out in the fall? Another question is....I have mulched large areas that were infested w/stiltgrass in an effort to push the seed bed down so far that seeds can't germinate. If I were to sow native seeds on top of mulch would that work? The mulch is very fine so I don't think the seeds would settle below it. I think they'd be adequately trapped on top of the mulch.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 6:50AM
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It could be Indian Grass. Its easy to ID by looking at how the leaves attach to the main stem. Look for a narrowing of the leaf where it attaches. There is a kind of curved groove at the bottom.

Most grass seed doesn't need stratification. Cool season grasses have inhibitors to prevent them from germinating at the wrong time, such as late spring or summer when its too hot & seedlings would fry. They simply need cool temps to germinate, not stratification.

The opposite is true for warm season grasses. The seed is programmed to wait until the soil safely warms up to prevent tender seedlings from freezing. 65 to 70 degrees is perfect but seed can be sown anytime during the summer growing season (not late summer or fall).

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 16:08

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 3:59PM
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Indian Grass leaf attachment:

This post was edited by TexasRanger10 on Thu, Apr 17, 14 at 16:10

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 4:00PM
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Thanks so much for posting the pics. I don't think it's Indian grass either! The seeds are not in an "inflorescence" like that. They are similar to dandelion seeds and seem to be clinging to the stalks...not in a separate structure. I will go and examine the grass more carefully today. I'm leaning towards A. virginicus...interesting how this is a desirable grass here and yet in Australia it appears to be invasive!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   April 18, 2014 at 7:04AM
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Interesting, Texas Ranger. I'm inclined to believe you, and perhaps the geographical gap is playing some part in the differences between our common (and successful) practices here in the north, and what you report as necessary in this Virginia location. We always are indeed planting a mix of grasses/forbs when we do "prairie" plantings. It may be that, as a practical matter, both basic seed types are sown together out of expediency more than anything else. One thing's for sure-I'll be looking into this more as time goes by. We do a LOT of fall sowing.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 9:03AM
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....and yes, you learn something every day. While our practice is indeed to do dormant seeding in fall, sowing a mixture of native warm-season grasses and various native forbs, TR's got it right-the warm-season grasses do indeed appear to germinate at their highest rate when spring-sown. I'd not known that, assuming the practice we've used here for years now to be best for all species involved.

Now this is def. not to say that a late-fall dormant sowing won't work with bluestem, Indian grass, et al. Just that it's not the only time that can work, and maybe not even the absolute best time. All depends on what else is being attempted, as in our case, a full compliment of forbs are included in the mix.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 7:58AM
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I'm surprised nobody got this right yet. It is a plant that we called brome sedge. It is a weed and definitely an undesirable. It is usually an indication of low ph and low fertility. Adding lime to the soil will get rid of it.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:44PM
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Interesting! Could you tell me what the scientific name is for this sedge? I googled and came up w/"brome-like" sedge and "broom sedge" it one of these?

However, this sedge, if it is indeed brome sedge, is growing in extremely (I think) fertile soil! Though you can't see it in the pic the sedge is growing amongst black and blue cohosh, bloodroot, rues of all kinds and other assorted native woodland species. The area is essentially Appalachian cove forest. There are areas that were disturbed by the building of the house about 10 yrs ago but the natives are still coming up through gravel and areas that used to be shaded by trees which are now in full sun so I think the soil is actually very "healthy"! In addition the house was actually built on a rock outcrop and I believe a lot of the rock is not so sure that I want to add lime to the soil?

This post was edited by adidas on Sun, May 11, 14 at 6:36

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 9:18AM
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Righto, at least on that last point, Addy. I too live in area underlain by dolomitic limestone. We don't tend to lime the soil around here. One county west though, you're into pure, acidic sand. There, the soil can use all the lime it can get, depending of course on what you're trying to do with it. But not right here.

BTW, I tend to dislike simple little nursery-rhyme-like sayings when used to remember stuff, but one that does come to mind is "sedges have edges", so if that is indeed a sedge, it should feature triangular stems with quite noticeable edges. It could still be a sedge-like plant, a rush, bulrush, or other similar plant type. But if it is a sedge, well, it will have these edges along the stems.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 8:30AM
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That's what gets me...I always wondered about the edges that refers to the stem and not the leaves? Also someone else was talking about grass having joints...but sedges do too don't they? where the seed "stalks" are attached?

For example...I thought this was a sedge of some variety but I think it has joints....depending on your definition of joints...

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 10:04PM
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Is this a sedge or grass?

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 10:06PM
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Heh, millions of biologists the world over pull their hair out over sedge ID. I'm not sure what that is, to be bluntly honest. But you're right that some sedge-like species have nodes. for example, river bulrush-Schoenoplectus fluviatilis-has distinct nodes along the traingular stems where individual leaf blades emerge. How large is this plant in the pic?


    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 9:00AM
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The plant in the pic is really quite small....these "sedges" seem to like rock crevices...not a good estimation but I would pretty much cover it if I were to put my hand over one and I have pretty small hands. The stem is definitely triangular!

Also just noticed that slatewiper used the common name of "bromesedge" but maybe this is akin to the other common name of A. virginicus, Broomsedge Bluestem...which is NOT a sedge! In this case we agree that this plant is indeed A. virginicus!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 2:18PM
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