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Gamagrass

 

by Sharon LaPlante

Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is a perennial, native bunch grass in the Poaceae family.

Its large size makes it an excellent specimen plant for the landscape. At maturity it will be approximately 4 feet by 4 feet. The foliage is a deep green and sword-like giving the plant a thick, bushy appearance.

The leaves are generally 2 to 3 feet in length and 1 inch wide, flat, and hairless (glabrous).

The large flower stalks (inflorescence) reach approximately 6 feet in length, and appear in early summer.

It is found throughout the southern states growing in wet bogs, ditches, hardwood hammocks, riverbanks, open swamps, pine woods, and flatwoods. Evidence shows that it was one of the dominant grasses of the true grasslands of the southeast before settlement. It grows in many mesic sites, but can be grown in the landscape in much drier conditions. It is tolerant of full sun to filtered sun, average to moist, sandy to organic soil.

Gamagrass is an excellent landscape plant for wildlife. The seeds are eaten by a variety of wildlife, and the foliage provides good cover. It is also considered high quality forage for cattle and has recently achieved a good deal of popularity. However, since rhizomes must be dug and planted in order to get it established it has not yet taken off as a forage plant.

Propagation can be achieved by seed, but it is much easier to divide mature clumps into smaller plants.

Dwarf Gamagrass (Tripsacum floridanum) can be used as a specimen or mixed in with wildflowers to produce a prairie effect. Its mature size is approximately 2 feet by 2 feet. The leaves are generally 1/2 an inch wide and 18 inches in length.

The inflorescence reaches approximately 3 feet in length, and appears in early summer.

Dwarf Gamagrass is found growing on low, rocky pinelands in southern Florida. In the home landscape it is tolerant of full sun to filtered sun, average to moist, sandy to organic soil.

It makes an excellent landscape plant for wildlife. The seeds are eaten by a variety of wildlife, and the foliage provides good cover. It is also considered high quality forage for cattle.

Propagation can be achieved by seed, but it is much easier to divide mature clumps.

 

Hitchcock, A.S.. Manual of the Grasses of the United States (vol. 1 and vol. 2). Dover Publications: New York, NY. 1971

Tobe, Ph.D., John D. et al. Florida Wetland Plants: An Identification Manual. UF/IFAS Publications: Gainesville, FL. 1998

Yartlett, Lewis L. Common Grasses of Florida and the Southeast. The Florida Native Plant Society: Spring Hill, FL. 1996

Wunderlin, Richard P. Guide to the Vascular Plants of Florida. University Press of Florida: Gainesville, FL. 1998

 

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