519 Tripsacum dactyloidesCommon Names: gamma grass, fakahatchee grass Family: Poaceae (grass Family)
This Southeast U.S. native grass is becoming increasingly popular among gardeners and it's easy to see why. Easy to grow and virtually pest-free, this grass is stunningly beautiful with its rich green foliage erupting from fountain-like clumps that will grow to 5 ft (1.5 m) in height and 4 ft (1.2 m) wide. The leaves are erect up to 6 ft (1.8 m) in length and about 1 in (2.5 cm) wide. Distinctive flowers appear in late spring (in the Deep South) to mid-summer and rise above the leaves on slender stems. Gamma grass is evergreen in sub-tropical areas. When exposed to frosts the leaves assume shades of red and bronze. Severe cold will clobber the leaves and cut the plant to the ground.
Gamma grass, Tripsicum dactyloides, is native to the eastern United States from New England to Michigan and Ohio then southward to Florida and westward to Texas. Its native habitats include moist areas around lakes and streams, boggy areas, ditches, etc.
CulturePrefers fertile soils but is tolerant of many types as long as it is moist. Light: Full sun to partial shade. Moisture: Likes moisture. Can grow in wet areas like bogs and marshes. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5 - 10. This plant is evergreen in frostfree areas. Freezes to the ground but returns in spring. Propagation: Divide clumps in springtime.
This is a great plant to add interest and mass to those problematic wet areas like ditches, drainage ponds and near small creeks and streams. I have several clumps growing at the edge of my pond where they shimmer in the dark water. They are invaluable in natural landscapes - I've planted several clumps in sinkholes on my property where they live happily with needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix) and baldcypress trees (Taxodium distichum). Clumps of gamma grass look great erupting from pots and containers and are easy to maintain.
Gamma grass is easy to grow, easy to propagate and tolerates flooding and standing water. It also is a great beginner plant, has beautiful rich green foliage and is (almost) pest free!
May be invasive in warm climate areas, especially in moist soils but this is rarely a problem in the garden.
Jack Scheper 10/03/98; updated 5/29/03, 9/17/03