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?

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
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
1 rating

Wednesday - February 08, 2012

From: Blacksburg, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Turf, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Native grasses and turf grass for VA
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I recently moved to Blacksburg, Virginia. I am becoming involved with a church here that recently started a grounds committee. There is some discussion within the group of which varieties of native grasses to plant. Some sections of the grounds are shaded, and some have full exposure. Fully exposed areas are currently covered by turf grasses. Big blue stem, little blue stem, switch grass, Indian grass are under consideration for exposed sites. Should any of these be removed from consideration for this region? Should any species be added? As a recent transplant from north Texas, my mind gravitates towards buffalo grass, but I don't know if I am out of its native range here. Is it important to consider ratios for each species for getting these plants established? Another consideration is that some of the exposed areas are intended for foot traffic.

ANSWER:

All the grasses you mention for the exposed area are good choices for your area and are ornamental as well.

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem) 

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

For the shadier areas you might want to also consider

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Deschampsia cespitosa (Tufted hairgrass)

or one of the many carex's native to your area like

Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania sedge)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

These grasses are all best used planted in drifts and not mowed to appreciate their ornamental qualities.

In the areas where you anticipate foot traffic you are looking for a suitable turfgrass.  It is not so easy to find a native one as most of the grasses used for lawns in North America are non-native adapted species.  That is because before European contact, turf grasses were only present in areas where there were openings in the forest that covered your part of the country.  You will find more information on that subject at americanlawns.com, this USDA publication and this article on lesslawn.com.

As you suspected, Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) is a possibility for your situation.  It is native to sunny, dry sites from Minnesota to Mexico but is present in Virginia.  You can also consider Festuca rubra (Red fescue) and other fescue mixes such as Eco-Lawn (which is not entirely native) and available from one of our associates Wildflower Farm.  You can learn more about Buffalo grass lawns and (just for interest's sake as you will always be a Texan) Habiturf from our How to Articles on the topic.

 

From the Image Gallery


Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Little bluestem
Schizachyrium scoparium

Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Tufted hairgrass
Deschampsia cespitosa

Pennsylvania sedge
Carex pensylvanica

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Buffalograss
Bouteloua dactyloides

More Turf Questions

Questions about Habiturf
April 01, 2012 - What does habiturf look like when it first emerges? Could you post some images? And how long will it take to begin to cover?
view the full question and answer

Water loving companions for a vegetable bed in Greenlawn New York
May 25, 2011 - I have a plot in a community garden that has poor drainage in one corner. I've installed raised beds, and that has helped immensely, but I'd like to plant some native plants in the wet corner that c...
view the full question and answer

Brown ryegrass in Austin lawn
June 03, 2008 - We had rye grass planted in our yard last fall. It was beautiful all winter. Now it is brown but the St. Augustine has not yet taken over, so there are large portions of the lawn with an abundance o...
view the full question and answer

Habiturf for shady areas in San Antonio TX
November 08, 2013 - Will the Habiturf grass mentioned here do well in shady areas too?
view the full question and answer

Survival of native lawn in Hockley TX
August 02, 2011 - I'm on the edge of the Katy Prairie and a very large ranch with full blasting sun and completely open exposure. The soil is fill from the developers with more clay than sand, a minimum of nutrients,...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center