Common Name: Indiangrass.
Scientific Name: Sorghastrum Nutans.
What to look for? Let’s start with what we see from the top. A golden brown seed head, or spikelets, sits atop of Indiangrass. The seed head is a single narrow plume-like panicle (loose branching cluster of flowers, such as in oats) with many short branches, erect initially to slightly arching at maturity. The seed head sways on a thick, erect stem, or culm, that is five to six feet tall. Each stem has multiple green leaf blades. The ligule - where the leaf blade connects to the stem - forms a distinct so-called "rifle-sight" (see photo to right) on Indiangrass. This tall prairie grass is attractive, particularly while the florets are blooming. Indiangrass remains erect throughout the summer and fall and sometimes throughout the winter.
Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? In spring, you can find the Indiangrass making their appearance along the upper banks of Carillon Stonegate Ponds and the adjacent fields. And these tall grasses will wave with the winds all through the summer and fall.
How big are they? Indiangrass grows to approximately four to six feet tall. The seed heads are five to twelve inches long and approximately one inch across.
Where do they grow and thrive? Habitats include a variety of prairies (black soil, clay, hill or sand) and savannas, fallow fields, roadsides, and areas along railroads (particularly where prairie remnants occur).
When do they bloom? The blooming period occurs from late summer into October.
Do birds, insects or other wildlife associate with this plant? Several species of grasshoppers feed on the foliage of Indiangrass. In turn, these grasshoppers are an important source of food to many songbirds and gamebirds. The foliage in the spring is also palatable to bison and cattle. And, as we have seen around Carillon Stonegate Ponds, it provides nesting habitat and protective cover for many kinds of birds, including the Mourning Dove, Red-winged Blackbird and Field Sparrow.
Interesting Facts About Indiangrass:
Indiangrass was one of the dominant grasses of the prairies that covered much of Illinois during historical times and is often used in tallgrass prairie restorations.
Indiangrass is a host plant for caterpillars that develop into the Pepper-and-Salt Skipper butterfly.
Indiangrass appears to be favored by occasional flooding and repeated burning as Done this spring at Carillon Stonegate Pond.
There are no known serious pests of Indiangrass.
For more information on Indiangrass and sources of information used in this blog (these are several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit Illinois Wildflowers, University of Texas Wildflower Center, Minnesota Wildflowers, Morton Arboretum and U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.
Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!