South Dakota Native Plant Research
Poaceae : Sorghastrum nutans

Poaceae : Sorghastrum nutans


Download Seed: The seed of indian grass (57 KB)

Download Seedling: Indian grass seedlings one month after germinating. (105 KB)

Download Mature plants (651 KB)

Download Vegetative: The firm ligule is 1.5 to 7 mm long. (64 KB)

Download Flowering: A panicle of the inflorescence is 11-27 cm long. (405 KB)

Download Fruiting: Indian grass producing fruit in late September at the research garden near SDSU. (503 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Indian grass

Native American Name

Lakota: pȟeží šašá íŋkpa žiž


Sorghastrum nutans is a perennial bunchgrass from a short rhizome with hollow, erect culms, 0.6-2 m tall, that have hairy nodes. The leaf blades are rolled in the bud and flat at maturity, 5-60 cm long, 3-12 mm wide, with a prominent midrib near the base. The sheath is smooth to hairy, with projections from the collar and joined to the firm, membranous ligule that is 2-7 mm long. The inflorescence is a condensed panicle, 11-27 cm long, bearing perfect spikelets with an associated naked pedicel. The inflorescence branches and pedicels are covered with white hairs. The hairy subequal, 5-8 mm long and brownish colored bracts (glumes) surround 2 florets, one fertile one and one sterile with a long, twisted awn. The anther are exerted, 3-5 mm long. Indian grass blooms from late July into October on open prairies scattered throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Indian grass adds color and texture to a native plant garden. The panicles darken to bronze to chestnut brown color in fall, fading to gray, and continue to provide some interest well into winter, as the seeds are attractive to birds.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds in September and October when they turn brown.

Germination: Seed will germinate if fall or spring planted.

Vegetative propagation: New shoots are produced by rhizomes and can be separated when the plants become dormant.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Soils: Rich sandy to clay loams.

Water: Moist to dry.

Poaceae : Sorghastrum nutans