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Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed)
Harper, Bonnie L.

Sporobolus heterolepis

Sporobolus heterolepis (A. Gray) A. Gray

Prairie Dropseed

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

14 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 3 feet tall.
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Pink , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug


USA: 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 Conditions

Water 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.


Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Fragrant Flowers: yes

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: 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

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:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
North American Native Plant Society - Etobicoke, ON
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE

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


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

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