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Thursday - July 23, 2009

From: rockland, MA
Region: Northeast
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Looking for a tall ornamental grass native to Massachusetts.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


I am looking for a tall (4-8 ft) ornamental grass, native to Massachusetts/ New England. It needs to be tolerant of moist to wet soil, and preferably colorful. Thanks for your help.


We applaud your preference for native plants. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.

The use ornamental grasses in landscapes is gaining in popularity, and this site from the University of Illinois Extension has a lot of information about their selection and use. However, be aware that several of the genera that they mention are non natives (Pennisetum, Miscanthus, Molina, Lagurus and, Briza).

To find some possibilities for you, lets go to our Native Plant Database and scroll down to the Combination Search box and make these selections; select Massachusetts under State, Grass/grass-like under Habit, Perennial under Duration, Sun under Light requirement, and Moist under Soil Moisture. Click the "submit combination search" button and you will get a list of 56 native plants in Massachusetts that match these characteristics. Clicking on the name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page that contains a description of the plant, its habitat and growing conditions, along with images. 

Here are a few to consider:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) 

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint)

You can make your own selections and adjust the list by altering the choices.

You might contact the Massachusetts Horticulture Society for further assistance.

Andropogon gerardii

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Panicum virgatum



Calamagrostis canadensis



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