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Sporobolus airoides (Alkali sacaton)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Sporobolus airoides

Sporobolus airoides (Torr.) Torr.

Alkali Sacaton, Zacate Alcalino

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Agrostis airoides


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

This is a 1-5 ft., warm-season, perennial grass growing in large, tough bunches. Its narrow, gray-green leaves cure blond. The graceful, open seedhead is composed of tiny, reddish spikelets. The name sacaton is derived from the Aztec/Nahuatl word for grass, zacatl.


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 Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Panicle
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov


USA: AR , AZ , CA , CO , ID , KS , MO , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , NY , OK , OR , SC , SD , TX , UT , WA , WY
Canada: BC
Native Distribution: Much of western North America, from Puebla in central Mexico north to ND, w. to s.e. B.C. & CA. In Texas, found mostly in the south, west, and north.
Native Habitat: Sandy or gravelly slopes; saline flats; floodplains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Moist to dry, alkaline, fine-textured soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type, Saline tolerant
Conditions Comments: Alkali sacaton is tolerant of flooding, drought, and saline-alkaline conditions. It is good for dust control and soil protection on saline-alkaline soils with limited moisture availability.

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.


Description: Sow seed.
Seed Treatment: A variety of treatments, including no pretreatment, have been used. Sowing wet, high diurnal temperature fluctuations, and/or a brief stratification period have given good results.
Commercially Avail: yes

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

Groundcover for erosion control
September 23, 2008
I live in southern california. What is the best groundcover to plant on a slope to prevent erosion?
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:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.

Additional resources

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


Record Modified: 2023-01-26
Research By: TWC Staff

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