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Setaria scheelei (Southwestern bristlegrass)
Livings, Hal

Setaria scheelei

Setaria scheelei (Steud.) Hitchc.

Southwestern Bristlegrass, Scheele's Bristlegrass, Scheele's Foxtail Grass, Foxtail Grass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Panicum scheelei

USDA Symbol: SESC2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Plant: Coarse, with stout, spreading culms. Culms: 70-130 cm. tall. Blades: Thin, flat, dark green, 15-30 cm. long & 5-18 mm. broad, usually finely pubescent. Bristles: Usually solitary below each spikelet, mostly 15-35 mm. long. Spikelets: 2.1-2.6 mm. long, ovate or ovate-oblong.

Native from north-central Texas west to Arizona and south to Puebla in central Mexico, Setaria scheelei is a knee- to thigh-high, warm-season bunchgrass commonly found in the dappled shade of open woodlands, limestone canyons, and urban side yards. It has cheery seedheads sometimes referred to as foxtails and is easy to grow from seed. Abundant in central Texas, where it tends to favor more disturbed soils than the two other common central Texas shade grasses, Virginia Wildrye (Elymus virginicus) and Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). Often seen growing there with False Dayflower (Tinantia anomala), White Panicle Aster (Symphyotrichum lanceolatum ssp. lanceolatum), Texas Nightshade (Solanum triquetrum), Drummond's Ruellia (Ruellia drummondiana), and other shade-loving woodland forbs.


From the Image Gallery

31 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: Glabrous , Pilose
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Monoecious
Inflorescence: Spikelet
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 4 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Fruit: Green becoming beige

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov


Native Distribution: North-central Texas south to Puebla in central Mexico and west to Arizona
Native Habitat: Shaded canyons and open woodlands.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2) , Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: A variety of soils, but mostly woodland soils and disturbed soils, including soils of urban areas. The richer the soil the less water required.
Conditions Comments: Usually found in dappled shade.


Use Ornamental: An attractive grass with decorative seedheads for shaded landscapes.
Use Wildlife: Seeds: Songbirds, waterfowl, marsh birds, small mammals. Foliage and seeds: mammals.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds
Larval Host: The Grass Family is an essential larval food for most branded skippers and most of the satyrs.
Deer Resistant: High


Propagation Material: Clump Division , Seeds
Description: Easily grown from fresh seed.
Seed Collection: Collect seeds when at the "ripe dough" stage, usually just as the color has changed from green to brown.
Maintenance: Sometimes dies back during droughts; cut back then and during winter dormancy. Shake out ripe seedheads in areas you want the plant to spread to. To avoid drought die-back, water sparingly during droughts and/or add woodland compost.

Find Seed or Plants

Order seed of this species from Native American Seed and help support the Wildflower Center.

From the National Organizations Directory

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

Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Patsy Glenn Refuge, c/o Wimberley Birding Society - Wimberley, TX

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-MM-794 Collected 2010-11-20 in Hays County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 293 - Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (1979) Correll, D. S. & M. C. Johnston
Bibref 281 - Shinners & Mahler's Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas (1999) Diggs, G. M.; B. L. Lipscomb; B. O'Kennon; W. F...

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 3 - Flora of North America (2014) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2022-09-27
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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