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Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans

Indian Grass - Sorghastrum nutans

Sorghastrum nutans, also known as Indian Grass, is a tall, perennial grass native to Michigan and the UP. It features height, texture, yellow spring florets, and attractive fall color in leaves and in feathery, tricolored seed heads. Chicago Botanic Garden states on their webpage: "the ornamental value of this grass has been overlooked" and goes on to describe its colorful plumes over blue stems with hints of purple and fall orange foliage.

Indian Grass can reach 2 to 6 feet tall and thrives in full sun, but tolerates partial shade.  It prefers medium to dry soil and will grow in clay, loam or sand, preferring poor soils. It is also drought tolerant, can deal with heavy clay and dry, shallow, rocky soils. According to Michigan Flora, it naturally occurs in dry, open forests (even jack pine), and prairies. It is also sometimes found at moist shores or occasionally marshes, however, rich, moist soil can lead to flopping.  


It makes a good dried flower and attracts birds. Indian Grass provides excellent cover year-round for birds and mammals while nesting, feeding, and over-wintering. It tends to remain upright in winter, providing cover and holding seeds above the snow. It is the host plant for several types of skipper butterflies and is eaten by a variety of grasshoppers, which (especially when small) are the food for insectivorous birds such as bluebirds. Larger insects can feed birds such as grouse, and the seeds are eaten in the fall and winter.


Indian Grass spreads by short rhizomes or seed. Reports of its agressiveness vary, with some describing it as a polite cluming grass and some reporting it may overwhelm a small garden or even a prairie planting. However, its healthy root system provides good erosion control. Deer resistant. 

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