|Danthonia spicata summer color|
One is Danthonia spicata, a sweet cool season native grass that I am crazy about. Poverty Oat Grass is a perfect name for a grass that grows in the most inhospitable of "lawn" spaces: Dry upland woods and forests, upland prairies, glades, tops of bluffs, old fields, eroded pastures, roadsides and dry disturbed areas. But, don't look for it among the ornamental grasses offered by most nurseries. It isn't a big sexy grass with showy inflorescence, but, it has much to offer for gardeners who love native plants. It also has good wildlife value for critters.
What I discovered was that most of the witch grasses/panic grasses are members of the Panicum or Dichanthelium genus and impossible for me to tell apart. Their panicled seedheads make them easily identifiable as panic grasses, but that's as far as I have gotten with most of them.
|source: Kansas Native Plants|
Deer-tongue grass is a native grass that occurs in the eastern half of the US. It prefers damp soil, so look for it in marshy ground, thickets, woody edges, stream banks, roadsides, and even near the shore.
It's most attractive in the early spring when the silver flower heads shimmer in the slightest breeze. The clasping leaves give the plant a bamboo like appearance and the foliage turns yellow-brown in autumn. It's attractive and has good wildlife value....so it's a keeper! Under the right conditions it can be an aggressive spreader, but, so far, that hasn't happened here.
|The tiny flowers are produced on open, airy clusters called panicles and are nearly impossible to photograph|
Botanical name: Dichanthelium clandestinum
Grass family (Poaceae)
Common name: Deer tongue grass
Wildlife Value: Dozens of birds eat the seeds, at least 5 different skipper larva feed on it and dozens of other beetles, and other insects feed on the leaves. When left standing in winter it provides shelter for birds and small mammals. Is grazed by mammals.
Bloom Time: May through Sept
Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: Zone 4 to Zone 9
Soil Preference: Clay, loam, sand
Pollination: Early flowers are wind pollinated, later ones are self pollinating
Landscape Uses: Massing, Natural garden, used to re-vegetate disturbed areas with infertile soils
Comments: In the right conditions this grass can spread aggressively.
My dear readers, you might consider allowing some of these native grasses to grow in your garden or even in your lawn. Think of all the good you'll do for skippers and other critters. Seeds can be found online, so give them a try!
Thanks for stopping by to help celebrate Wildflower Wednesday.
Wildflower Wednesday is about sharing wildflowers all over this great big beautiful world. It doesn't matter if we sometimes show the same plants, how they grow and thrive in your garden is what matters most. I hope you join the celebration...It's always the fourth Wednesday of the month!
Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.