Some Real Good Grass! By Don Torino

No, this is not a public service announcement for the Colorado chamber of commerce, but rather a way to get our home landscape into balance with the nature around us. Ornamental Grasses are beautiful, add interest and texture to our gardens and have become a favorite in the home landscape . Unfortunately many grasses sold at nurseries are non-native and are of little value to wildlife and even worse can become invasive. The good news is with a little searching we can find our native grasses at your local nursery that will benefit wildlife and look beautiful in the home landscape.

Here is a partial list of some Native grasses known as the BIG FOUR and how they can help the habitat in your own backyard.

Switch grass (Panicum virgatum) A Clump-forming, warm-season grass with open, lacy sprays with small seeds has be restored to many places in the meadowlands, from DeKorte to Mill Creek and River Barge park and Laurel Hill . Many Songbirds love the seeds produced by this beautiful curly leaf clumping grass including Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Towhees and numerous native sparrow species. The Switchgrass is also a host plant for many species of Skipper butterflies and can easily be found at just about any garden center.

switch grass (1)

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparius) Andrpogon bluestem is a very ornamental bunchgrass with fine-textured foliage that forms very dense mounds. The seeds of bluestem from this 1-4ft. yellow tan grass is loved by Turkey, Juncos,and sparrows. This beautiful grass is also the host plant for Skipper and Satyr butterflies.

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem

Big Bluestem (Andopogon gerardii) Fast disappearing from its native range, great for restoration projects on larger properties but too big for the average backyard . The seeds of this almost 8ft. tall grass is used by many songbirds such as finches, juncos and sparrows and is loved by turkey, and if you happen to have a buffalo roaming around your New Jersey home they would love it too. The Skippers and Satyr butterflies will use this as a host plant also.

Big Bluestem

Big Bluestem

Indian grass (Sorgastrum nutans)A beautiful grass with a somewhat metallic golden sheen Native from east of the Rockies all the way to the Atlantic Coast This tall grass (3-8ft) with it’s shiny golden brown plumes is loved by many birds from Cardinals, pipits to our native sparrows and of course it is a host plant for skipper butterflies and a beautiful addition to the home wildlife habitat.

Indian Grass

Indian Grass

It is vitally important that we restore the balance to our backyard eco-systems , introducing our natives grasses is one important way we can accomplish this while making our backyards more beautiful and healthy.

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