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Photo of Indian grass flower head in bloom
Indian grass is a native perennial bunch grass with flowering stalks up to 7 feet tall. The golden seed heads are plumelike, with twisted awns.
Jim Rathert
Other Common Name
Indiangrass
Family

Poaceae (grasses)

Description

Indian grass is a native perennial bunch grass with flowering stalks 2–7 feet tall. Rootstocks are short, scaly rhizomes. The mature seed heads are dense, golden, and plumelike, held upright or slightly arched, with twisted and bent awns protruding from the florets. Leaf blades can be 2 feet long and are roughened, the base with a distinctive pair of short clawlike prongs (auricles) where it joins the stem. Flower heads develop August–September.

Size

Height: flowering stems 2–7 feet

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Photo of Indian grass culm, held in a hand showing pointed auricle.
Indian Grass (Auricle)
Indian grass has a pair of stiff, pointed, clawlike auricles where the leaf blade attaches to the sheath.

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Photo of a colony of Indian grass
Indian Grass Colony
Indian grass occurs nearly statewide and is an important component of native prairies and glades.

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Photo of Indian grass seed head with frost
Indian Grass Seed Head With Frost
Indian grass seed heads are dusted with frost at dawn on a chilly December day.

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Photo of a big clump of Indian grass
Indian Grass Clump in Bloom
Indian grass is one of the tall grasses of the tallgrass prairie. Its flowering stems can reach 7 feet tall.

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Photo of a field of Indian grass
Indian Grass in Field
Indian grass is considered highly desirable and nutritious for livestock, both as fodder and for production of hay.

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Photo of Indian grass flower head in bloom, showing anthers
Indian Grass in Flower
Flower heads of Indian grass develop August–September. The yellow structures are anthers, which are the pollen-producing parts of the flowers.

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Photo of a colony of Indian grass at Mule Shoe CA
Indian Grass Colony at Mule Shoe Conservation Area
Indian grass occurs in upland prairies, glades, savannas, and openings of dry upland forests.

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Photo of dried flowerheads of Indian grass, closeup
Indian Grass Dried Flowers
Indian grass, like many of our native grasses, can be beautiful additions to dried flower arrangements.

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Photo of flowering head of Indian grass
Indian Grass Flowering Head
Indian grass is one of America's most important tall grasses. It grows in the Great Plains and much of the eastern United States.

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Photo of bases of Indian grass stems in autumn
Indian Grass Stem Bases in Autumn
Indian grass is a native perennial bunch grass with flowering stalks 2–7 feet tall. Rootstocks are short, scaly rhizomes.

Indian_Grass_culms_4-10-18.jpg

Photo of Indian grass with upright culms
Indian Grass
Within the large and diverse grass family, Indian grass is included in the same tribe as corn, sorghum, big bluestem, little bluestem, and gama grass.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in upland prairies, glades, savannas, and openings of dry upland forests; also in old fields, pastures, roadsides, railroads, and dry, open, disturbed areas. Indian grass is a major component of tallgrass prairie and glade vegetation. Like most other prominent tall grasses of tallgrass prairies (such as big bluestem), Indian grass is a warm-season grass that photosynthesizes most efficiently during the hottest part of the summer, a time when cool-season grasses may go dormant.

Distribution in Missouri

Common nearly statewide, but absent from portions of the Mississippi Lowlands in the Bootheel.

Status

Within the large and diverse grass family, Indian grass is included in the same tribe as corn, sorghum, big bluestem, little bluestem, gama grass, and silver grass (Miscanthus — an Asian grass popular in landscaping).

Human connections

Indian grass is considered highly desirable and nutritious for livestock, both as fodder and for production of hay. The common name Indian grass reminds us of the deep history of Native Americans in the prairies of North America. Their historic land management system of igniting occasional fires maintained prairie ecosystems.

Ecosystem connections

Indian grass is a major component of tallgrass prairie and glade habitats. Just as trees dominate woodland and forest communities, grasses dominate prairies, glades, and savannas. Thus a large variety of native animals and plants rely on Indian grass and associated grasses for their existence.