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Indian Grass

( Sorghastrum nutans )


Indian Grass
Yellow Indian Grass
Sorghastrum nutans
(Linnaeus) Nash
Andropogon nutans
Sorghastrum avenaceum



Sun, Partial Shade

Clay, Sand, Loam

Dry, Normal, Moist




Habitat Considerations

Boreal Shield, Mixedwood Plains, Prairies

Savannah, Forest Edge, Prairie/Meadow/Field

Rooftop Garden (drought tolerant/shallow rooted), Butterfly, Bird, Prairie/Meadow
Design Considerations

90 cm

240 cm

Aug - Sep






Pepper and Salt Skipper butterfly| Wood Satyr Butterfly




Squirrels, Birds, Butterflies, Butterfly Larvae, Other Showy Insects

Conservation Status


Interesting Tidbits

Warm season grass with rich gold and purple sprays of flowers and seeds in the fall. (Ontario Native Plants 2002) Although this grass grows best in deep, well drained flood soils, it is also tolerant of drought, acidity or alkalinity or all textures of soil from clay to sand. It provides wildlife habitat and good food for deer. (USDA Plants) Attracts skipper butterflies. It provides wildlife habitat for small mammals and seed for birds. Planted in clumps for landscaping, it is attractive all year round, providing fall colour and winter interest. (Kemper Center for Gardening) Habitat Information: This grass has very long roots, like many prairie plants, in response to extreme drought. (Evergreen) Its roots can grow as long as 10.5 feet, common in a Tall Grass Prairie Species, the most endangered habitat in North America. (Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) Insect Relationships: Indian grass is food for the wood satyr and common wood nymph butterflies. Found within the range in Southern Ontario where prairie occurs. This is not considered a Toronto native plant. Indian grass is a later successional species in prairie habitats. (Delaney, Rodger, Woodliffe, Morris & Rhynard, 2000) White tailed deer, bobwhite quail use for escape, shelter, and other small mammals eat seeds. (USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service) Bison and cattle readily eat this plant. (Illinois Wildflowers) Garden Uses: The Latin name for this plant nutans means nodding. (Tall Grass Ontario) Indian Grass is very attractive when grown as a speciment or focal point in the garden. It is a clump forming grass. (Rhynard, G., as cited in Johnson, L., The new Ontario Naturalized Garden, 1999) This plant can be aggressive in some soils. (Rhynard, G., as cited in Johnson, L., The new Ontario Naturalized Garden, 1999) This grass is quite showy, with a seed head almost like a bronze feather. A large field of this grass shines copper, vs. big bluestem, another grass which is also a tall grass species occupying the same habitat shines purple and blue. (Evergreen) This grass is also very nutritious for livestock. (Tall Grass Ontario) Insect Relationships: Grasshoppers which are critically important food to many insectivorous songbirds and upland gamebirds. Others include the leafhopper Flexamia reflexus, planthopper Myndus fulvus, Issid planthopper Bruchomorpha extensa, caterpillars of Amblyscirtes hegon (pepper and salt skipper). (Illinois Wildflowers) Traditional Edible Uses: Provides excellent food for livestock when green and young, and medium quality when mature. (USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service)

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