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Sporobolus heterolepis (A. Gray) A. Gray
Poaceae (Grass Family)
USDA Symbol: SPHE
USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)
Prairie Dropseed is a fine-textured, distinctive bunchgrass with leaves that curve gracefully outward forming large, round tufts. Delicate seedheads appear above the tuft in midsummer, rising 3 ft. high. Fall color is tan-bronze. Prairie dropseed is a perennial.
Snow does not flatten the plant, so it is visible even in winter.
From the Image Gallery
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Up to about 3 feet tall.
Autumn Foliage: yes
Bloom InformationBloom Color: Pink , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug
DistributionUSA: AR , CO , CT , GA , IA , IL , IN , KS , KY , MA , MD , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , ND , NE , NM , NY , OH , OK , PA , SD , VA , WI , WY
Canada: ON , QC
Native Distribution: Que. to Sask., locally s. to NC, KY, e. TX & CO; also reported from MT
Native Habitat: Dry prairies
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Dry, sandy soils.
Conditions Comments: Slow growing and slow to establish.
A clump forming warm season grass.
Foliage turns golden with orange hues in fall, fading to light bronze in winter.
Flowers have pink and brown tints, but are perhaps most noted for their unique fragrance.
BenefitConspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes
Value to Beneficial InsectsProvides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees
This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
PropagationDescription: Propagate by sowing unstratified seed in fall or stratified seed in spring. Sow 1/4" deep. Seeds prefer cool weather to germinate. Dropseed takes about three seasons to develop specimen size. Division of older plants is difficult because of a dense, t
Seed Collection: Collect in Oct.
Seed Treatment: Dry stratification
Commercially Avail: yes
Find Seed or Plants
View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.
Mr. Smarty Plants says
Native plants to stabilize a steep bank in Pennsylvania
April 23, 2008
I would like to use native plantings to stabilize a steep bank of a septic leach field in eastern Pennsylvania. My purpose is to control erosion and to eliminate the need for mowing. What would you r...
view the full question and answer
National Wetland Indicator Status
From the National Organizations DirectoryAccording to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:
Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
North American Native Plant Society - Etobicoke, ON
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE
BibliographyBibref 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 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
Web ReferenceWebref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Additional resourcesUSDA: Find Sporobolus heterolepis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Sporobolus heterolepis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Sporobolus heterolepis
MetadataRecord Modified: 2023-01-26
Research By: TWC Staff