Native Meadow Grasses

viridis2May 26, 2005

I'm so glad to have discovered the Gardenweb forum. Thanks to those gardeners who so generously offer advice! I'm particularly happy to see a native plants category, for my aim is to restore a 2-acre site to its natural (mostly woodland/forest) state. Here is my question:

I'm trying to decide on a native grass for a small (approx 40'x20')meadow area. From what I've seen, many native grasses tend to have fountain-like clumps at the base. Given that it is a small area, I think the lumpiness would be unattractive (esp. in winter). Is there a native grass that is more wholly vertical? I am also hoping it might be more supple than stiff----as I would love to see it sway in the wind.


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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but IMHO native bunch grasses are very attractive in all seasons.

My favorites for visual appeal are: junegrass (dramatic seed heads in early summer, prairie dropseed (soft arching clumps with delicate seed heads), sideoats grama (unique seed stalks), and little bluestem (all-season color and vertical seed stalks that persist over winter). All of these are small enough that they will not dominate the small plot you describe.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 12:47PM
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Thanks John. I see you live in Missouri as well! I have a great little pamphlet from the Mo Dept of Conservation on "Native Grasses for Landscaping." From the illustrations shown, it looks like Prairie Dropseed would be my last choice, due to a fountain-like mass at the base, whereas Switch Grass or Canada Wild Rye may produce the least clumping. Would this be correct?

(By the way, I really do appreciate ALL the native grasses----just a matter of what would work best where.)

Also, any advice on a good source for plugs?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 12:16AM
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I don't really understand what you are looking for, except tall flower stalks. Esssentially all the native prairie grasses are bunch grasses that grow in clumps.

I have seen some attractive plantings of switch grass, especially those that use varieties with bluish foliage. The airy seed head is the main appeal, but the plants are very large and would overwhelm most other grasses and wildflowers. Wild ryes have attractive seed heads, but are otherwise pretty nondescript.

I think prairie dropseed is the most attractive native grass for small plantings, though it doesn't seem to be what you are looking for. Little bluestem has a more vertical growth pattern and better year-round appeal (especially varieties with lots of color). June grass might be a good choice for you because it has beautiful seed heads. River oats also has has very cool dangling seed clusters that look great all winter.

A mixture of the above species would look better than a mass planting of any single species.

A good source for plugs of Missouri native grasses is Missouri Wildflowers, south of Jefferson City.

Here is a link that might be useful: Missouri Wildflowers Nursery

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 10:20AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

you may want to look at some native sedges. they tend to be less bunchy at the bottom (they are still bunching but appear less so - IMO) the sedges tend to have nice stalks and interesting seed heads.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2005 at 2:18PM
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ahughes798(z5 IL)

Big bluestem and Little Blue stem are pretty vertical. Switchgrass. Panicgrass. Side Oats. And they sway in the breeze. And they have excellent fall colour. and you can leave them standing for winter interest. And maybe, after you appreciate them for the other 3 seasons of beauty they give can forgive them any clumpiness in the 4th season..LOL!

    Bookmark   May 31, 2005 at 12:19AM
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homeworkhobo(nw brooklyn)

yes my blue stems are very vertical until some wind got to them, but they were almost 3 feet tall

Here is a link that might be useful: a good gardening site

    Bookmark   June 27, 2005 at 12:08AM
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Thank you to all for the good advice! Sorry I haven't responded sooner. Had some trouble accessing the website.

I think I'll go with River Oats, Bottlebrush Grass and Little Bluestem, with Indian Grass in the background. I think I may like the grasses as much as the forbs! The lumpiest one seems to be Prairie Dropseed. That one I think I'll avoid.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2005 at 1:38AM
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