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Prairie Drop Seed Sporobolus heterolepis

Other Common Name(s):

Phonetic Spelling
spor-OB-oh-lus heh-teh-roh-LEP-iss
Description

Prairie Dropseed, is a perennial clump-forming, warm-season, ornamental grass that forms dense tufts of sprawling leaves up to 2 feet high and 3 feet across. It displays a glossy green summer color that turns deep orange in late fall then fades to light copper. Snow does not flatten the plant, so it is visible even in winter. It is a prairie grass typically found in glades, open ground and along railroads. Tiny rounded mature seeds drop to the ground from their hulls in autumn giving rise to the descriptive common name. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous. This grass spreads primarily by reseeding itself.

Prairie dropseed grows in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils and has a reputation for being slow to establish itself in a site as well as slow growing. It prefers full sun and dry, rocky soil, but tolerates a wide range of soils, including heavy clays, as well as deer, drought, and other challenges. It can be grown from seed but does not freely self-seed in the garden. Because the seeds are difficult to germinate, it is easier to propagate this grass by dividing the dense tufts of leaves. Once it becomes established at a suitable site, Prairie Dropseed is long-lived.

This plant is listed by the Department of Agriculture as endangered in seven eastern states, including North Carolina.

Diseases, Insects, and Other Problems:

No known problems.

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#lawn alternative#ornamental grass#mass planting#erosion control#NC native#deer resistant#warm-season grass#native ornamental grass#foot traffic tolerant#fall color bronze#lawn alternative full sun
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#drought tolerant#lawn alternative#ornamental grass#mass planting#erosion control#NC native#deer resistant#warm-season grass#native ornamental grass#foot traffic tolerant#fall color bronze#lawn alternative full sun
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sporobolus
    Species:
    heterolepis
    Family:
    Poaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Canada to U.S.A
    Distribution:
    throughout
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts birds. Feeds grasshoppers and leafhoppers.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 2 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Ornamental Grasses and Sedges
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Dense
    Mounding
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Fine
  • 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
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3b, 3a, 4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Type:
    Caryopsis
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Pink
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Fall
    Summer
    Flower Size:
    > 6 inches
    Flower Description:
    Pink and brown-tinted 3 to 8 inch flowers. Scented, open panicles on slender stems held 3 feet above the foliage. Blooms from August to October. Flowers have pink and brown tints, but are perhaps most noted for their unique fragrance (hints of coriander).
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Smooth
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Orange
    Leaf Type:
    Fronds
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    > 6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    Thread-like, fine textured, hair-like leaves. Glossy green summer color turns deep orange in late fall then fades to light copper. Leaves (to 20 inches long and 1/16 of an inch wide) typically form an arching foliage mound, 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Rock Wall
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Rock Garden
    Design Feature:
    Accent
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion
    Foot Traffic
    Pollution