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Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Nassella tenuissima

Nassella tenuissima (Trin.) Barkworth

Mexican Feathergrass, Mexican Wiregrass, Finestem Needlegrass, Ponytail Grass, Texas Tussock

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Stipa tenuissima

USDA Symbol: NATE3

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

One of a few plants to occur naturally in southwestern North America and in southern South America with no natural populations in between, Nassella tenuissima is popular in landscaping for its delicate, thread-like leaves that billow gracefully in even the slightest breeze. It is native in North America only to mountains in west Texas and adjacent New Mexico south to central Mexico, but it has become widely used throughout hospitable areas of the US and elsewhere. Given the right conditions - well-drained soil, the right amount of water, and adequate sunlight - this grass can even become invasive outside of its native range. But within its range and in well-managed landscapes, it is a welcome addition to the garden that can add a dramatic softening touch to harder-edged plants and architecture.


From the Image Gallery

12 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Leaf Pubescence: Scabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Spikelet
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Light silvery green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep
Bloom Notes: Color silvery white


Native Distribution: Mountains of west Texas and southern New Mexico south to central Mexico. A separate native population in southernmost South America in Argentina and Chile.
Native Habitat: Open woods on rocky flats and slopes in the Trans-Pecos Mountains. Well-drained soils.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous sands, loams, or clays.
Conditions Comments: Requires good drainage and can't take excessive moisture. Should not be watered heavily more than once a week. Goes dormant during drought and in winter. May rot under heavy mulch. Grows well in containers.


Use Ornamental: Useful as a low-growing, graceful accent grass in landscaping.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Deer Resistant: High


Propagation Material: Seeds
Seed Collection: Collect seed in May, June when it is blonde and comes away easily. Use a comb or your fingers to rake seed off in such a way as not to damage the look of the plant.
Seed Treatment: Can be started all year, but may grow faster in the heat.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Water once a week during droughts to prevent dormancy. Do not cut it back after winter.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Ground cover for trails in Northeast Texas
January 09, 2008
I have several acres of wooded land in Northeast Texas, Southern Lamar County. Both sandy and black land. I have created trails through the woods and would like to plant a native ground cover or gras...
view the full question and answer

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
United States Botanic Garden - Washington, DC
NPSOT - Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX


Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski

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Additional resources

USDA: Find Nassella tenuissima in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Nassella tenuissima in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Nassella tenuissima


Record Modified: 2017-04-07
Research By: TWC Staff, MAC, GDG

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