En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - June 29, 2011

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: What is pulling Indian Grass out of a park in Washington DC?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We are renovating a park in Washington, DC on the waterfront. We have planted Sorghastrum Nutans (Indian Grass). During the evening/overnight something is pulling the plants from the ground. It is only plant that is being removed. Any ideas/suggestions? Your help is greatly appreciated.


Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) is a wonderful native grass, found in tallgrass prairies. It is native to your area so it's not dropping dead and walking away. In this article from Illinois Wildflowers Indian Grass we found this excerpt:

"Several species of grasshoppers feed on the foliage of Indian Grass; these grasshoppers are an important source of food to many insectivorous songbirds and upland gamebirds. Other insects that feed on this prairie grass include the leafhopper Flexamia reflexus, the planthopper Myndus fulvus, the Issid planthopper Bruchomorpha extensa, and the caterpillars of Amblyscirtes hegon (Pepper-and-Salt Skipper). The foliage is also palatable to hoofed mammalian herbivores, including bison and cattle. Because of its height and tendency to remain erect, it provides good cover for many kinds of birds and animals in prairies."

Okay, so we don't think the grasshoppers are pulling the Indian Grass out by the roots. Got any cattle walking around in DC? Is there any chance that someone else with a garden that needs some prairie grasses is shopping in your park? We also thought of deer, because as their habitats disappear, more and more of them are becoming urbanized. However, we looked at our Deer Resistant Species list, and learned that Indian Grass is highly deer resistant. In fact, most deer don't care for most grasses, and I don't think they would pull them out of the ground.

We think you need to talk to some people closer to the situation and familiar with plant predators. The University of the District of Columbia has a Cooperative   Extension Office for Washington DC. An alternative would be the Virginia State University Cooperative Extension Office. If they don't know what is ravaging your stands of Indian Grass, they may know some organization to refer you to. All we can tell you is cattle like it, deer probably don't, and grasshoppers aren't big enough to do more than chew holes.


From the Image Gallery

Sorghastrum nutans

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Replacing St. Augustine with native grasses in San Antonio
November 04, 2009 - I am hoping to replace St. Augustine on a sloped yard with native grass. I was wondering where I might get information on the prairie grass seed mats used by the TXDOT highway dept to stop erosion. ...
view the full question and answer

Nassella tenuissima for Woodland Hills CA
June 30, 2013 - Good afternoon, I wanted to purchase some already grown Mexican Feather Grass (Nassella tenuissima) and was wondering how often and for how long I would need to water said grass on a scheduled sprinkl...
view the full question and answer

Low plants to cover bank too steep to mow
June 26, 2008 - I have a bank along the road that is too steep to mow. This bank faces east and only gets 2 - 4 hours per day of sunlight. I'd like to try ground cover to prevent erosion, however visibility is a p...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a children's playground
April 20, 2015 - We have extensive native gardens on our 2 acre property, but my children want a garden of their own with plants they can hide under and that are good for imaginative play. Are there any native plants...
view the full question and answer

Establishing native pasture in East Texas
October 29, 2011 - We are the owners of a 20 acre parcel in Harrison County, Texas. It is currently planted in pine trees. Our intentions are to thin and harvest the pine trees over the next 10 years. We would like t...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center