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Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)
Hampton, Nan

Sorghastrum nutans

Sorghastrum nutans (L.) Nash

Indiangrass, Yellow Indiangrass, Indian Grass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Andropogon nutans, Sorghastrum avenaceum

USDA Symbol: SONU2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

Yellow indian grass is a tall, bunching sod-former, 3-8 ft. in height, with broad blue-green blades and a large, plume-like, soft, golden-brown seed head. This showy perennialís fall color is deep orange to purple.

This is a beautiful grass with a somewhat metallic golden sheen to its flowering parts. It is an important associate in the tallgrass prairies and is relished by livestock. It appears to be favored by occasional flooding and repeated burning and sometimes forms nearly pure stands in the lowlands. Warm-season grass with rich gold-and-purple sprays of flowers and seeds in the fall. (Ontario Native Plants 2002)


From the Image Gallery

57 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 Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Panicle
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 8 feet tall.
Leaf: Green

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Aug , Sep , Oct
Bloom Notes: The awns are red/rust color.


USA: AL , AR , AZ , CO , CT , DC , DE , FL , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MS , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WI , WV , WY
Canada: MB , NB , ON , QC , SK
Native Distribution: Que. & ME to Man., s. to FL & AZ, then south to Chiapas in southern Mexico
Native Habitat: Prairies; open woods; fields; dry slopes. Frequent in north central Texas, Edwards Plateau, and Plains Country. Sand, loam, clay, limestone; seasonal poor drainage okay.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist, rich soils. Calcareous, Sandy Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Along with little bluestem, big bluestem and switchgrass, Indian grass is an important species in the tallgrass prairie. The bright yellow flowers contrast attractively with the blue-gray foliage. The grass stays low most of the year and then gets tall before blooming in early autumn. Like little bluestem, Indian grass is best planted en masse or in a wildflower meadow.


Use Ornamental: Grows in clumps, Accent
Use Wildlife: Seeds-Small mammals, Seeds-granivorous birds, Nesting material
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Butterflies
Larval Host: Pepper-and-Salt Skipper butterfly.
Deer Resistant: High

Value to Beneficial Insects

Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Pepper and Salt Skipper
(Amblyscirtes hegon)

Adult Food Source
Learn more at BAMONA


Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Propagate by sowing unstratified seed in fall or stratified seed in spring. Sow 1/4" deep. Division of older plants is difficult because of a dense, tangled root system.
Seed Collection: Collect seed in fall.
Seed Treatment: Seeds require dry stratification.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Indian grass tolerates imperfectly drained soil. It is a good accent plant, however it needs tall companions to remain upright.

Find Seed or Plants

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

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

When to plant grasses on Long Island, NY
December 06, 2009
Dear Mr. Smarty Plants; Are there any grass seeds that I can plant NOW, early December, on Long Island, NY? The planting environment is on and near a sandy bluff on a bayshore, where it can be windy ...
view the full question and answer

Plants to control hillside erosion in Vermont
May 23, 2008
Hi, I am trying to do an eagle project that involves putting vegetation onto a hill to prevent erosion. I live in Vermont. What kinds of plants would hold together a hillside and could be planted in ...
view the full question and answer

Using Native Plants Database to determine flowering time in Austin
April 07, 2006
How can I access your data base to learn what plants are flowering in Austin during the months of October and early November?
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

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
Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Patsy Glenn Refuge, c/o Wimberley Birding Society - Wimberley, TX
Nueces River Authority - Uvalde, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
North American Native Plant Society - Etobicoke, ON
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0981 Collected Nov 4, 1994 in Bexar County by Mike Fox
NPSOT 0668 Collected May 21, 1991 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe

2 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-176 Collected 2007-10-28 in Bell County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
LBJWC-630B Collected 2007-11-20 in Blanco County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

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


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 1294 - The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Research Literature

Reslit 258 - A soil heat and water transfer model to predict belowground grass rhizome bud death in a grass fire (2009) J. Choczynska and E. A. Johnson
Reslit 259 - Experimental restoration of native vegetation in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore (1998) Y. D. Choi and N. B. Pavlovic
Reslit 179 - Relative Rooting Depths of Native Grasses and Amenity Grasses with Potential for Use on Roadsides in New England (2010) R. N. Brown, C. Percivalle, S. Narkiewicz and S. D...
Reslit 143 - Burning and grazing to promote persistence of warm-season grasses sown into a cool-season pasture (2010) E. L. Bouressa, J. E. Doll, R. L. Cates, Jr. and R...
Reslit 145 - Response of selected forage grasses to herbicides (1991) R. W. Bovey and M. A. Hussey
Reslit 508 - Effects of competition on photosynthetic rate and stomatal conductance of Sorghastrum nutans (1996) D. J. Gibson and V. A. Skeel
Reslit 288 - Fire season and dominance in an Illinois tallgrass prairie restoration (2002) T. E. Copeland, W. Sluis and H. F. Howe
Reslit 542 - Nutrient addition affects AM fungal performance and expression of plant/fungal feedback in three serpentine grasses (2004) D. J. Gustafson and B. B. Casper
Reslit 581 - Plant Demographic Responses to Mycorrhizal Symbiosis in Tallgrass Prairie (1994) D. C. Hartnett, R. J. Samenus, L. E. Fischer and B...
Reslit 597 - Nitrogen Influences Biomass and Nutrient Partitioning by Perennial, Warm-Season Grasses (2009) A. H. Heggenstaller, K. J. Moore, M. Liebman and R...

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1985 VOL. 2, NO.4 - Message From Helen Hayes, Head for the Hill Country, Spring Tours at the Center,...
Wildflower Newsletter 1986 VOL. 3, NO.3 - Fall Planting Tips, Growth Provides Enthusiasm, 1985 Financial Facts, Gathering ...
Wildflower Newsletter 1988 VOL. 5, NO.2 - Researching Wildflower Seed Quality, Wildflower Center Receives $500 -000 Gift, ...
Wildflower Newsletter 1996 VOL. 13, NO.6 - Winter Wonderland, Origins of the Christmas Tree, Development Director\\\'s Repo...

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2022-07-12
Research By: TWC Staff, LAS

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