Sporobolus heterolepis, commonly known as Prairie dropseed, is a species of prairie grass native to the tallgrass and mixed grass prairies of central North America from Texas to southern Canada. It is also found further east, all the way to the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada, but is much less common beyond the Great Plains and is restricted to specialized habitats. It is found in 24 states and 4 Canadian provinces.
Prairie dropseed is a perennial grass that typically grows from 2 to 3 feet in height. It occurs in a wide range of soils, doing well in moist to dry conditions. It is much less common in wetlands.
Prairie dropseed is a fine-textured grass with long, narrow leaves that arch outward, forming attractive round tufts. The leaves range in color from a rich green hue in summer to a golden rust complexion in the fall. Foliage is resilient enough to resist flattening by snow, so it provides year-round interest. From late July to mid-September, the grass blooms with rusty-tan flowers that rise 30 to 36 inches in height.
The grass is favored by decorative landscapers because of its tendency to grow in bunches. The seedhead is sometimes described as having the vague scent of fresh popcorn, cilantro, or sunflower seeds. Because of its drought tolerance, it has been used on green roofs.
Prairie dropseed is used for roadside revegetation and prairie restoration projects. It is difficult to establish by direct seeding. This is best done by setting plants.
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