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Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants

Graceful, fine-textured, clumping grasses that are as tough as they are good-looking. Deep-rooted and drought tolerant; excellent for massing in hot, dry areas and effective in meadow gardens, mixed borders, naturalized areas, rock gardens, even by swimming pools. Plume-like flower heads appear in summer and fall. After they fade, tiny seeds drop to the ground; hence the common name. These plants tolerate a wide range of soil conditions.

Sporobolus airoides
Sporobolus airoides

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Sporobolus airoides

Nataive from South Dakota and Missouri west to eastern Washington, south to Mexico from 2,500 to 6,500 ft. elevation. Foliage clump grows 3 ft. high and wide; leaves are grayish green during growing season, yellow in fall, beige in winter. At bloom time in summer or fall, showy, erect or arching flower plumes increase plant height to 5 ft.; plumes are pinkish, eventually fading to pale straw color. Extremely tough, deep-rooted plant. Good grass for alkaline conditions.

Sporobolus heterolepis, photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo
Sporobolus heterolepis, photo courtesy of Rob Cardillo

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Sporobolus heterolepis

Native to the Midwest, HighPlains, and much of the easternU.S. Emerald green, hairlikeleaves form a billowing mass to15 in. high and 1 1/2 ft. wide.Foliage turns golden to orange infall, then fades to light bronze in winter. Slender-stemmed, airypanicles of flowers rise to 3 ft.high, soaring above the foliagein late summer. Blossoms arepink to light brown and smellfaintly of buttered popcorn. Theseeds are highly nutritious andwere ground into flour by thePlains Indians. Self-sows mildly;volunteer seedlings are seldoma problem. Plants tolerate anysoil but do best when it’s on thedry side.

Sporobolus wrightii

Native in North America from 2,000 to 7,000 feet elevation. Narrow, arching, blue-green leaves form a clump 3 to 4 ft. high and wide. Feathery, golden yellow seed heads nearly double the plant’s height in late summer to early fall; good in dried arrangements. Evergreen in all but the coldest climates. Quite drought tolerant but looks best with occasional deep watering.

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