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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.

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

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Sunday - September 20, 2009

From: Edwardsburg, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native fountain grass for Edwardsburg MI
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I purchased a purple fountain grass by a vendor @ the Plymouth, IN blueberry festival. He told me that it is a perennial. I live in Edwardsburg, MI and I keep reading that in my area, they are considered annuals. What is correct?? I love this grass and would love to have it back every year without having to re-plant.

ANSWER:

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the care, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which it is being grown. Pennisetum setaceum, fountain grass, is native to Africa and Saudi Arabia, among others. The word "Purple" attached to the plant you bought no doubt was a vendor-selected description. Not only is this plant out of our area of expertise, but it is considered a harmful invasive in the areas in which it can be grown, none of which are as far north as Michigan. Read this Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group 'Least Wanted' article on Fountain Grass.

In our Native Plant Database, we have found seven grasses that are similarly attractive to the fountain grass, but are all perennial and all native to Michigan. Follow the links to the page on each grass for more information.

Native ornamental grasses for Michigan

Calamagrostis canadensis (bluejoint) - clump-forming, 3 to 5 ft. tall, purple when in flower, stands up well in winter, sun, part shade or shade More pictures

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - clump-forming, 3 to 5 ft. tall, part shade or shade

Deschampsia cespitosa (tufted hairgrass) - cool season perennial, mostly evergreen, 2 to 3 ft. tall, part sun. More information

Elymus villosus (hairy wildrye) - 3 to 6 ft. tall, partial shade

Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley) - 1 to 3 ft. tall

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - ornamental bunchgrass, 18 to 24 inches tall, sun or part shade

Tridens flavus (purpletop tridens) - 3 to 7 ft. tall with purple spikelets, part shade

Pictures from our Native Plant Image Gallery


Calamagrostis canadensis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Deschampsia cespitosa

Elymus villosus

Hordeum jubatum

Schizachyrium scoparium

Tridens flavus

 

 

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