South Dakota Native Plant Research
Poaceae : Hierochloe hirta

Poaceae : Hierochloe hirta


Download Seedling: Rooted cuttings produce new shoots within a couple of weeks. (511 KB)

Download Mature plants (1.5 MB)

Download Flowering: The inlorescence is a panicle. (500 KB)

Download Flowers and culms (370 KB)

Download Leaves in late summer (2.0 MB)

Download Plants on SDSU farm (1.2 MB)

Family Name


Common Name


Native American Name

Lakota: pȟeží wačháŋǧa


Hierochloe hirta is a perennial rhizomatous sod-forming grass with erect, hollow, hairless culms that grow 10 to 70 cm in height. The culms appear early in the spring and large tufts of basal leaves follow. The shiny leaf blades are rolled in the bud and flat at maturity, 10-30 cm long and 2-5 mm wide, with the 2-3 alternate culm leaves being much shorter and somewhat narrower, occasionally with hairs at the collar. The ligule of the culm leaves is membranous and 2-3 mm long. the inflorescence is a 4-9 cm long panicle of 3-floret spikelets, with the 2 lower florets having just stamens and the upper one being perfect. The 3 spikelets are surrounded by 2 bracts (glumes) that are usually membranous, hairless and slightly unequal in length. The bracts subtending the individual florets (lemma and palea) are often hairy. Sweetgrass blooms from May into July in wet meadows, sloughs and marshes in the northeastern and southwestern portions of South Dakota.

Synonym: Anthoxanthum hirtum

Additional Notes

Sweetgrass has a wonderful aroma and the leaves are often braided and smudged for ceremonial purposes by members of South Dakota’s indigenous peoples. It is difficult to start from seed and germination and seedling growth are slow, but once established the plants will aggressively spread by rhizomes, producing new shoots each year. To contain them in a small area, a deep, 25-10 cm, continuous barrier is needed to limit expansion. If allowed to spread, the plants can be hard to remove.

Horticulture Notes

Seed Collection: Collect spikelets in June or July. Look carefully for seeds as most of the spikelets will not produce viable propagules.

Germination: No pretreatment is needed but fall sowing has proven the most effective approach.

Vegetative Propagation: Propagate by rhizome cuttings. Newly transplanted shoots doe best if shaded for a few weeks.

Soils: Rich sandy loams are best.

Light: Full sun to partial shade.

Water: Moist to medium wet.

Poaceae : Hierochloe hirta