Chapter 3. Common Native Grasses of the Northern Midwest

3.16 Prairie dropseed

‘Tara’ prairie dropseed in flower.
‘Tara’ prairie dropseed in flower.

Sporobolus heterolepis

Warm season; Perennial

Characteristics: 3–4’; mound; flowers beige with purplish hue; foliage deep to lime green;

Growing Conditions: average to dry soils; full sun; hardy zones 3–8

This fine-textured mound-forming grass does well in upland or dry sites. The flowers are light and airy, creating a cloud-like mass. They have a unique fragrance and smell like hot buttered popcorn or coriander and cumin. Prairie dropseed can be used en masse to cover slopes and as an alternative lawn where foot traffic is minimal.

  • ‘Tara’: shorter form, uniform and upright, flowers gold; 24–30”.

Species that use prairie dropseed according to the literature are the noctuid moth Anicla tenuescens, the noctuid moth Dichagyris reliqua, Dakota skipper (Hesperia dacotae), Pawnee skipper (Hesperia leonardus pawnee), Ottoe skipper (Hesperia ottoe), and Poweshiek skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek).


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Gardening with Native Grasses in Cold Climates Copyright © 2020 by Diane M. Narem and Mary Hockenberry Meyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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