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Alkali Sacaton Sporobolus airoides

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
spor-OB-oh-lus air-OY-deez
Description

Sporobolus airoides, or Alkali dropseed, is a warm-season, perennial, ornamental bunchgrass native to western and central United States and often found in saline flats, prairies and sands, and meadows and valleys with moderately saline soils (hence the alkali common name). Alkali dropseed will grow in most soil types, including saline soils, and prefers dry or moist soil. It cannot grow in the shade and is pollinated by the wind. Alkali dropseed tolerates flooding, drought, and saline-alkaline conditions. It is good for dust control and soil protection on saline-alkaline soils with limited moisture availability.

The plant grows in large, tough bunches to a height of 6 feet with narrow gray-green leaves that turn yellow in fall and light tan in winter. It produces abundant seeds and the graceful, open seedhead is composed of tiny, reddish spikelets. The seeds are edible; raw or cooked, and can be parched, ground into a flour and eaten dry or made into a mush. This seed has been known to be used by the Hopi Indians as a famine food, only used when all else fails. The stem is thick and woody at the base.

This is a valuable grass for revegetation projects in disturbed habitats, especially in the western United States.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Problems:

No known problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#salt tolerant#colorful leaves#ornamental grass
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#salt tolerant#colorful leaves#ornamental grass
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sporobolus
    Species:
    airoides
    Family:
    Poaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Western and Central United States
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    drought
    Edibility:
    Seeds can be eaten
    Dimensions:
    Height: 1 ft. 0 in. - 6 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 8 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Erect
    Mounding
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4b, 4a, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Achene
    Caryopsis
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Gray/Silver
    Pink
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Dried
    Long Bloom Season
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Open panicles in summer, strong pink cast, dries to silver. Blooms from mid-summer to late fall. Blossoms are long and generally wide open and spreading, bearing yellow spikelets with purplish bases.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Cream/Tan
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Shape:
    Lanceolate
    Linear
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Twenty-four inch gray-green leaves turn yellow in fall and light tan in winter.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Tough and thick at the base.
  • Landscape:
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Salt