1307 Sporobolus heterolepsisCommon Names: Prairie dropseed,northern dropseed Family: Poaceae (grass Family)
Prairie dropseed is clump forming perennial grass whose leaves and flowers have a mild fragrance. The bright green leaves are flat and narrow, just a sixteenth of a inch (2 mm) wide. They average 2-3 ft (60-90 cm) long, and turn reddish orange in fall. The inflorescence is an open, breezy panicle 5-15 in (13-38 cm) tall, that is held on 12-30 in (30-75 cm) culms conspicuously above the foliage. The tiny flowers in the cluster are pinkish white. ‘Wisconsin’ is a cultivar selected by growers in Europe for its cold hardiness and reliable blooming.
Sporobolus heterolepsis occurs naturally in open grasslands and prairies throughout much of the North American Midwest. It was a major component of the North American short grass prairie. Prairie dropseed occurs sporadically in scattered locations in eastern North America, but is not known from the mountains, the Southeast or the Far West.
Light: Full sun is best for this grass of the wide open prairie, but it can be grown in partial shade. Moisture: Prairie dropseed has deep roots and is extremely tolerant of dry soils and drought. It can be grown on most soils, including rocky and clayey. Of course, it will grow faster in fertile soil with adequate watering. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8 . Some authorities list hardiness in zones 3-9. Propagation: Propagation is usually by seed, but it can take a few years to reach significant size. Large clumps can be divided for quicker results.
An outstanding ornamental grass, prairie dropseed is long lived and slow growing. It may take a few years to reach a significant size, but prairie dropseed just keeps getting bigger year after year with little need for attention from the gardener. The airy inflorescence of prairie dropseed is like a pink cloud in the garden. It is especially attractive when backlit. In autumn, the foliage turns a handsome orange-red, and by winter it has faded to more of a copper color. Use prairie dropseed in the mixed border, in the meadow garden, or as a ground cover on poor, dry soils. Prairie dropseed performs well in the rain garden. It’s a natural in the rock garden and makes a good addition to a mixed foundation planting. The inflorescence is very effective in dried floral arrangements. Birds eat the seeds.
Unusual among grasses, prairie dropseed foliage and flowers are fragrant. In mass, the delicate sweet fragrance can be detected from a considerable distance across the garden. The perfume has been described as reminiscent of cilantro, melted wax, or burnt buttered popcorn.
The deep rooted prairie dropseed is tolerant of poor, dry soils and is used for erosion control and restoration of denuded lands.
Prairie dropseed is considered by many to be the showiest of the prairie grasses, and is one of the most popular ornamental grasses in cultivation today.
Steve Christman 4/18/18