By: Jannie Vaught
As the spring season lengthens and we press on into Summer, this is my intention. Learn more about Texas Native Plants and the big one for this gardener is grasses. The What are they, where are they and are they a help or a problem.
As with all big topics, let’s shorten the list and study just a few. On the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, there are lists and pages of information all brought to us via the internet. There are many experts on this topic and many of them are my neighbors and local friends. Thanks to all of them for responding to my many questions. Lets first look at this site and draw some information from the experts. Under vegetable resources, Forage grasses, Cool-season grasses, Warm-season grasses, Notes on hay crops and production. All of these are listed on their topic. Then I went to Native American Seed company in Junction Texas and started reading their information. Well, now I remember why this has been set aside for a very long time. There is just a huge amount of grasses to learn about.
Let’s wade into the grass.
Sideoats Gramma, Bouteloua curtipendula, The official “State Grass of Texas,” this mid-sized plant is often found as an ornamental accent in residential and commercial landscapes, thanks to the pretty, oat-like seeds that appear along one side of its stems. Spreads by seed and roots, and thrives alongside Little Bluestem in natural grasslands. Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium. At home on the range or in your yard, this beautiful blue-green bunch grass turns red-bronze after frost with fluffy, silver-white seeds. Will grow to 2-3 ft, at maturity with seed heads adding another 1-2 ft of height. This is a foundation prairie species from Mexico to Canada. Excellent nesting cover for birds and, larval food for butterflies. Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardi. This 2-4 ft, tall grass puts out a “turkey-foot” shaped seedhead to add another 2 feet to its height in the fall. The resulting 6-foot plant lives up to its reputation as “king of the prairie”. This grass thrives in deep soils 150 miles east and west of I-35 from the Gulf o Mexico to Canada. Forms a circular clump and sends roots down as deep as 12 feet into the soil. Attending a Permaculture Design Course recently, there have been a number of speakers. This young group of restoration farmers is all about restoring native plants, especially grasses. One of the varieties they kept talking about is Green Sprangletop Leptochloa dubia. The spreading “sprangled” appearance of the seedhead gives this grass its common name.
Mixed with other natives as a “nurse grass”- comes up quickly in the spring and is easy to grow, but fades after 2-3 years as other native grasses get established. Reproduces by seeds and roots. Performs as short-term nurse grass in a variety of soils and grows permanently on rocky hills and canyons in sandy soils of the Trans-Pecos area of Texas They are seeding this grass seed with other seeds on compacted soils from overgrazing. And their results have been noticeable. As we take some quiet time and observe the beauty of our natural world we see that everything we need is right under our feet.
Take some time and get to know the Native Grasses of Texas.
Out in nature and growing green with Jannie
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