Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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?

Share

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

QUESTION:

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.

ANSWER:

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


Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Plants for pool area in Fort Worth
April 20, 2010 - We have a new pool in our backyard, and now also quite a bit of bare land to go with it. Looking for native grass suggestions and also shrubs/trees that I can plant around the pool area for privacy an...
view the full question and answer

Plants that will grow in clay in North Carolina
March 14, 2008 - I have a small fenced back yard, predominately hard red clay, that is a major focal point. I am designing my own garden/yard area (to cut cost) and have a list of plants that will grow in this soil w...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
April 05, 2013 - We currently have a Honey Mesquite tree with thinning bermuda grass underneath in our front yard. I suspect that the filtered shade is killing the bermuda. I was thinking of planting Buffalo Grass, or...
view the full question and answer

Three native grasses in grass mix research
April 20, 2010 - On a recent visit to the wild flower center I was informed that you had satisfactory results from the grass mix research funded by Walmart. Please let us know which 3 grasses and the percentage of e...
view the full question and answer

Plants for October wedding in Texas Hill Country
October 16, 2009 - I am planning an October wedding at a Texas Hill Country vineyard. I would like to incorporate some local, seasonal plants in the floral design. Can you recommend some hill country plants, flowers, ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.