Ornamental Grass Identification

Written by kandra sperling
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Ornamental Grass Identification
There are numerous varieties of ornamental grass. (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Daria)

According to Tim Miller, a weed scientist at Washington State University Extension, there are about 10,000 grass species worldwide. According to the University of Minnesota, more than 50 ornamental forms of the Micanthus genera are sold in nurseries throughout the United States.

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According to C.R. Wilson of Colorado State University Extension, the term ornamental grass is used to include "not only true grasses (Gramineae) but close relatives such as sedges (Cyperaceae), rushes (Juncaceae), hardy bamboos (particularly the genus Phyllostachys), and others."


Japanese silver grass, Little bluestem, Karl Foerster's feather reed grass, Prairie dropseed, Pink Crystals ruby grass, and Moor grass are among numerous ornamental varieties.


According to Wilson, "Feather reed grass (Calamagrostis x acutiflora 'Karl Foerster') has a wheat-like look that makes it one of the showiest and most popular grasses." The green flower spikes of this ornamental first appear in May to June.

Climate and Care

Most ornamental grasses used in gardens throughout the United States originated in Asia and Europe where they flourished in moist climates. Therefore, many varieties require ample rainfall or irrigation.


Some grasses, such as Japanese silver grass with its silky flower tassels that persist into winter are easily identified. Northern Lights tufted hairgrass, a newer Asian variety has cream and pink variegated leaves, according to Wilson.


Aside from being easy to maintain, ornamental grasses add texture and interest to gardens. Wilson states that movement and sound are two elements they provide that are not readily obtained from many other plants.

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