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Cord Grass Prairie Spartina pectinata

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
SPAR-tin-ah pek-tin-AY-tah
Description

Spartina pectinata, or Prairie Cord Grass, is a course, tough, perennial warm season grass with a growth habit as wide as it is tall. It typically grows in a dense, arching clump to 4-7 feet tall when in flower and is usually found in freshwater marshes, swampy open valleys, slough and pond margins, low spots along roads and railroads and both wet and dry prairie areas. This is one of our country's tallest grasses and is probably the species that gave rise to Midwestern settlers’ accounts of grass that was higher than a horse’s back.The dark green glossy leaves have sharp edges and you should protect your hands with gloves when handling the plant. This species is sometimes called ripgut because of the sharp-edged leaves. The seeds can cling to the fur of animals or clothing of humans; this spreads the seeds to new locations. 

Prairie Cord Grass grows best in fertile, moist to wet loams in full sun to part shade, but it will tolerate sandy or rocky soils if there is adequate moisture. Plants also tolerate some dry soils where they tend to grow/spread less aggressively. This grass is somewhat aggressive, although it won't tolerate regular mowing. Because the florets are self-incompatible and they may be subjected to heavy insect predation, it can be difficult to obtain viable seeds, but you can establish new plants through division of the rhizomes, which can spread on their own to form large colonies. Most growth and development occurs during the summer. This grass tolerates periods of hot dry weather and is very useful in controlling erosion on slopes or along streams.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:

This grass spreads aggressively and can be invasive. The larvae of several moth species feed on this specific type of grass.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aureo-marginata'
'Aureo-marginata'
Tags:
#wildlife plant#salt tolerant#ducks#ornamental grass#playground#grass#small mammals#children's garden#nesting sites#food source summer#food source winter#food source fall#food source spring#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard-mast fruit
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Aureo-marginata'
'Aureo-marginata'
Tags:
#wildlife plant#salt tolerant#ducks#ornamental grass#playground#grass#small mammals#children's garden#nesting sites#food source summer#food source winter#food source fall#food source spring#food source herbage#bird friendly#food source hard-mast fruit
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Spartina
    Species:
    pectinata
    Family:
    Poaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Erosion control. This plant was used by both pioneers and Native Americans for thatching lodges.
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    North America
    Wildlife Value:
    The seedheads are occasionally eaten by ducks. Muskrats feed on the rootstocks and foliage. It is an important source of protective cover and nesting habitat for many wetland birds and other kinds of wildlife.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    salt tolerant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 4 ft. 0 in. - 7 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 4 ft. 0 in. - 4 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Erect
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Caryopsis
    Fruit Description:
    Seed is in the form of grain.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Gold/Yellow
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Raceme
    Spike
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Stiff, open panicles bloom in July and August. Stems rise above the foliage clump bearing terminal clusters of straw-colored flowers arranged comb-like on cluster branches. The terminal raceme of floral spikes up to 1½ feet long with 10 to 30 alternating spikes per raceme. These spikes are widely spaced along the central stalk of the raceme and they are erect, ascending, or widely spreading.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Fleshy
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Sheath
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Glossy dark green leaves to 4 feet long and 5/8 of an inch wide have sharp edges. Leaves turn yellow in autumn. The alternate leaves are located primarily along the lower half of the stem. The leaf blades are linear, flat, and glabrous (smooth). The leaf blades have a rather thick succulent texture, fine parallel veins, and prominent midribs; they are typically arching (curving upward from their bases next to the culm and then curving downward toward their tips). The leaf sheaths are green, yellowish green, or light brown; they are glabrous with fine longitudinal veins. Each ligule at the junction of the blade and sheath consists of a ring of dense white hairs.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Cross Section:
    Round
    Stem Form:
    Straight
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The central culm (stem) is light green, terete (round in cross-section), and glabrous. Strong upright to arching stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Design Feature:
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Erosion
    Salt