Sorghastrum nutans

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Sorghastrum nutans
Sorghastrum nutans Tennessee.jpg
Indiangrass in bloom
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Monocots
Clade: Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Genus: Sorghastrum
S. nutans
Binomial name
Sorghastrum nutans
  • Andropogon avenaceus Michx.
  • Andropogon nutans L.
  • Andropogon nutans var. avenaceus (Michx.) Hack.
  • Chrysopogon avenaceus (Michx.) Benth.
  • Sorghastrum avenaceum (Michx.) Nash

Sorghastrum nutans, commonly known as either Indiangrass or yellow Indiangrass,[2] is a North American prairie grass found in the central and eastern United States and Canada, especially in the Great Plains and tallgrass prairies.


Indiangrass is a warm-season perennial bunchgrass. It is intolerant to shade. It grows 3 to 7 feet (1 to 2 m) tall, and is distinguished by a "rifle-sight" ligule where the leaf blade attaches to the leaf sheath. The leaf is about 3 feet (1 m) long.[3]

It blooms from late summer to early fall, producing branched clusters (panicles) of spikelets. The spikelets are golden-brown during the blooming period, and each contain one perfect floret that has three large, showy yellow stamens and two feather-like stigmas. One of the two glumes at the base of the spikelets is covered in silky white hairs. The flowers are cross-pollinated by the wind.[4]

The branches of pollinated flower clusters bend outwards. At maturity, the seeds fall to the ground.[4] There are about 175,000 seeds per pound.[3]


Sorghastrum nutans is prominent in the tallgrass prairie ecosystem and the northern, central, and Flint Hills tall grassland ecoregions, along with big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). It is also common in areas of longleaf pine.

It is adapted in the United States from the southern border to Canada and from the eastern seaboard to Montana, Wyoming and Utah.[3]

It regrows with renewed vitality after fires, so controlled burns are used, replacing extirpated large herbivores (i.e. bison), for habitat renewal.

It is a larval host to the pepper-and-salt skipper.[5]


Indiangrass is the official state grass of both Oklahoma and South Carolina.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service lists the following uses for Indiangrass:

  • Erosion control
  • Livestock
  • Pollinators
  • Restoration
  • Wildlife[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Sorghastrum nutans". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  2. ^ "Sorghastrum nutans". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 2011-03-03.
  3. ^ a b c d "Indiangrass." Plant Fact Sheet.2011. Accessed July 26, 2015
  4. ^ a b Hilty, John (2016). "Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans)". Illinois Wildflowers.
  5. ^ The Xerces Society (2016), Gardening for Butterflies: How You Can Attract and Protect Beautiful, Beneficial Insects, Timber Press.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sorghastrum nutans at Wikimedia Commons