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Stipa

Feather Grass
Poaceae (Gramineae)
Ornamental grasses and grasslike plants

These clump-forming grasses produce large, open, airy inflorescences that can add lightness and motion to the garden. The genus has undergone much revision by botanists, and some of its former members are now known by other names; see Nassella for descriptions of California native needle grasses.

Stipa gigantea
Stipa gigantea

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Stipa gigantea

Native to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Narrow, arching, evergreen leaves form a clump 2–3 ft. tall and slightly wider. Open, airy sheaves of yellowish flowers bloom in summer, forming a broad, shimmering cloud that rises 6 ft. tall and as wide or slightly wider. Little to moderate water.

Stipa lessingiana

Native to Turkey, the Caucasus, Siberia, and China. Wispy clump of arching, fine-textured bright green leaves grows 18–30 in. tall and 20 in. wide. Open, airy sheaves of creamy flowers bloom in early summer, last into winter. Takes heat and drought but best with moderate water. Great in containers.

Stipa tenuissima
Stipa tenuissima

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Stipa tenuissima

Native to Texas, New Mexico, and Mexico. Among the finest textured and most billowy of all ornamental grasses. Grows to 2 ft. tall and 2–3 ft. wide, with thread-like bright green leaves. In summer, produces very thin flowering stems that arch outward and downward, ending in a cloud of silvery green, 3-in. awns that age to a light straw color and remain attractive into winter. Stays green where summers are cooler.

Thrives with little to regular water. Can self-sow in well-irrigated gardens; to prevent, cut plants back before seeds ripen.

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