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Spartina pectinata (Prairie cordgrass)
Bolin, Kathryn E.

Spartina pectinata

Spartina pectinata Bosc ex Link

Prairie Cordgrass, Freshwater Cordgrass, Sloughgrass

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Spartina michauxiana, Spartina pectinata var. suttiei


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

Freshwater Cord Grass or Prairie Cord Grass is a very rigid, upright perennial, 5-8 ft. tall, with tough leaves. Coarse, ascending spikelets of tan-colored seedheads are arranged spirally in two’s on the upper part of the stem and are the main virtue of this grass. Fall color is an attractive yellow. A tall grass, with stiff, widely spaced flowering branches, the entire flower cluster reaching well above the leaves.

This is one of our tallest grasses and is probably the species that gave rise to Midwestern settlers’ accounts of grass higher than a horse’s back. Prairie Cordgrass is one of the dominants of the tallgrass prairie, growing mainly in low, wet areas. The species name derives from the Greek word pecten (“comb”), referring to the appearance of the plants flowering branches. Also known as Sloughgrass.


From the Image Gallery

10 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: Jun


USA: AR , CO , CT , DC , DE , IA , ID , IL , IN , KS , KY , LA , MA , MD , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , NC , ND , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , OH , OK , OR , PA , RI , SD , TN , TX , UT , VA , VT , WA , WI , WV , WY
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE , QC
Native Distribution: Nf. & Que to e. WA & OR, s. to NC, TN, LA, TX & NM
Native Habitat: Fresh water & coastal marshes; prairie swales

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Wet
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Wet to moist, rich soils.
Conditions Comments: Prairie cordgrass spreads rapidly by rhizomes, and is best suited to large areas. It can become invasive.


Attracts: Birds


Description: Propagate by seed or division.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed 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

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:

North American Native Plant Society - Etobicoke, ON
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 Spartina pectinata in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Spartina pectinata in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Spartina pectinata


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

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