A Walk Through The Gardens: Indiangrass

This week’s plant is another bunchgrass species that is one of the highly desirable “big four” tall grasses. Indiangrass, or Sorghastrum nutans, is a native Texas grass that is sought after in rangeland management efforts. Indiangrass helps with erosion control, especially in critical areas that experience high winds. The grass is very nutritious and readily eaten by livestock, newer growth is enjoyed by deer, and turkeys will strip the seeds off the plant to eat. Sorghastrum nutans supports native pollinators while also providing nesting habitats for birds and small mammals. Indiangrass grows stiffly erect and can reach heights of 8ft making it a great protective cover for newborn fawns.

Sorghastrum nutans has a bluish-green color during the growing season and turns a golden tan color once it has fully matured. Leaf blades are flat and grow at a 45˚ angle from the stem. Indiangrass reproduces from both seeds and rhizomes. The large, plume-like seed heads are golden brown.

The early Native Americans would have used this tall, sturdy grass in their daily lives. Indiangrass was most likely a material used in building housing units, called wickiups, and shade providing ramadas. In the botanical gardens, our model wickiup village was built using Indiangrass. Sorghastrum nutans would have also been used for basket making and as a fire starter. Come take a walk through the gardens this week to check out the Indiangrass and the model wickiup village.

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