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Sorghastrum nutans

Pronunciation: Sor-gas-trum nut-ans
Family: Poaceae/gramineae (grass family)
Common Name: Indiangrass, yellow indiangrass
Plant Type:
  • grasses
Height to: 6'
Width to: 2'
USDA Hardiness Zones:
  • -30 to -40ºF ZONE 3
  • -20 to -30ºF ZONE 4
  • -10 to -20ºF ZONE 5
  • 0 to -10ºF ZONE 6
  • 10 to 0ºF ZONE 7
  • 20 to 10ºF ZONE 8
  • 30 to 20ºF ZONE 9
Sun Exposure:
  • part sun
  • full sun
Bloom Season:
  • late summer
Bloom Description: In late summer, silky golden flowering plumes appear above the foliage. These compact panicles are 4-12 in (10. 2-30. 5 cm) long and 1-3 in (2. 5-7. 6 cm) in diameter. The plumes are a bronzy color with contrasting hairy grayish branchlets, white fringed spikelets, and showy bright yellow anthers that create a sparkling gold-and-silver effect. The roundish tawny beige-tan seeds have tail-like 0. 5 in (1. 3 cm) long wiry awns that are bent and twisted in such a way as to make the seedhead look a bit frizzled. This is a warm season grass that begins growth in midspring after the soil has begun to warm
Soil Type: Indiangrass grows on a wide variety of soils, including some that are sandy or gravely, but it is most luxuriant on rich, moist, fine textured bottomland types like deep silty loams. It will tolerate heavy clays, limerock, mild salinity, and soil ph as acidic as 4. 5. Indiangrass delights in fertilizer and irrigation. It should not be mowed or grazed at all the first year.
Plant Perks:
  • Attracts Hummingbirds
  • Attracts Butterflies
Propagation: Ndiangrass sheds its seeds soon after they mature, but they require a season's dormancy at winter temperatures before they will germinate. Fresh seed may be sown in the fall and expected to sprout when the soil warms up in the spring, or firmly planted 0. 5 in (1. 3 cm) deep in early spring. A seeding rate of 4-10 lbs. Of live seed per acre is recommended. If the seeds are to be mechanically planted, they should be "debearded" to remove their tail-like awns first. The seedlings are tougher than those of most grasses and can be transplanted while quite young and expected to survive early dry spells better than might be anticipated. Propagation by division is also possible, but it is likely to be challenging due to the tough matted rhizomes. Transplants may be set out in either spring or fall
Native to: North america east of the rocky mountains from saskatchewan to quebec and south into northern mexico. This species originated in prairie and savanna habitats and grows in a wide variety of dry to mesic woods and meadows. Indiangrass readily invades disturbed sites with bare soil and now may be found along roadsides, in old abandoned farm fields, and on reclaimed lands.
Notes for Identification: Indiangrass is widely used in large scale roadside plantings and revegetation, prairie restoration, rangeland improvement, and erosion control projects since it grows well on disturbed sites and produces abundant seeds that are readily harvested and easily sown by hand or machine. When it is in active growth, indiangrass makes a nutritious pasture grass rich in protein and vitamin a. The forage value of indiangrass decreases rapidly later in the season however, and it is regarded as a low quality supplemental pasturage in the fall and winter. Indiangrass does not make very palatable hay and decreases in density if cut at the hay stage, so this use is not recommended.  indiangrass is a wonderful drought resistant meadow grass that is a legitimate and desirable native component in most eastern north american grasslands. It may be grown intermixed with native cool season grasses as well as with comparably assertive wildflowers and warm season grasses. Indiangrass is an aggressive competitor. Don't plant it amongst fragile wildflowers! Indiangrass attracts wildlife too. Bees come to the blossoms, songbirds and small mammals eat the seeds, and deer browse the foliage. It also provides excellent nesting sites and cover for pheasants, quail, mourning doves, and prairie chickens.
Located in: Grasses
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