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Mr. Smarty Plants - Native grasses for lawn in Michigan

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Sunday - June 14, 2009

From: Grand Haven, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Turf
Title: Native grasses for lawn in Michigan
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I want to plant a lawn of grasses that are native to Michigan specifically. My soil is a little sandy in some spots and is moderately moist. I have been researching on the internet and I *think* that I am looking for a short, cool season grass. I would like to plant a few different grasses, clover, etc. to maintain a decent biodiversity. I am from Indiana and grew up surrounded by bentgrass which I've read is not native. I really love the softness of it though. I've been told june grass is nice. I plan to mow so height isn't an issue.

ANSWER:

There are three common bentgrasses used for lawns.  All three of these are introduced non-natives, but all are grown in Michigan:  Agrostis stolonifera (creeping bentgrass) is the grass commonly seen on golf courses; Agrostis capillaris (colonial bentgrass) and Agrostis canina (velvet bentgrass) are other commonly used bent grasses for lawns and golf courses.  You can see the distributional range of A. stolonifera, A. capillaris, and A. canina on the USDA Agricultural Research Service Germlasm Information Network (ARS-GRIN) pages.

There are actually three native species of grass with the common name of 'bentgrass' that grow in Michigan.  They are: 

Agrostis hyemalis (winter bentgrass) and here are photos from Oklahoma University.

Agrostis perennans (upland bentgrass) and photos from Illinois Wildflowers

Agrostis scabra (rough bentgrass) and photos from University of California Photos (CalPhotos).

Agrostis gigantea (redtop) is another Agrostis species native to Michigan, although it doesn't have 'bentgrass' in its common name.  Here are photos from Illinois Wildflowers.

You can visit our Recommended Species page and choose Michigan from the map or pull-down menu to find a list of over 150 commercially available plants native to the state that are recommended for landscaping.  you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and choose 'Grass/Grass-like' under General Appearance to limit the result to 14 grasses and grass-like plants.  One of those grasses is Koeleria macrantha (prairie Junegrass).

Others on that list that would be a good grass for your lawn are Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem), Bromus kalmii (arctic brome), Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass), Elymus canadensis (Canada wildrye) and Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass).

You can see photos of many of these, plus other native prairie grasses, on the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve page of prairie grasses.


Koeleria macrantha

Schizachyrium scoparium

Bromus kalmii

Pascopyrum smithii

Elymus canadensis

Sorghastrum nutans

 


 

 

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