Plant Guide > Grasses > Purple Eragrostis Grass

Purple Eragrostis Grass


Eyagrostis pectinacea (Michx.) Steud.

When the warm colour of Bent-grasses has faded, these grasses of late summer intensify, with deep violet and purple, the gold of harvest.

One of the most common species, Purple Eragrostis, called by children "Tickle-grass," grows in low tufts on dry and sandy soil, where the gauzy flowering-heads, a foot long or more, spread above the dark green, hairy leaves.

As the sunlight of early morning falls "Across the meadows laced with threaded dew" the flowering-heads of this grass glisten with an intense colour which is reflected in each crystal dewdrop that gems the spikelets.

In dry fields, where the September sun has burned to a golden brown the shorter growth of grasses, ripening panicles of Purple Eragrostis, like a reddish purple mist, often cover the ground, and although October frosts fade the flowering-heads to a pale straw-colour, they are still noticeable during autumn, when, as one of the tumbleweeds of the East, they are carried by the wind and piled in huge drifts against way-side fences.

Purple Eragrostis. Eyagrostis pectinacea (Michx.) Steud.

Perennial, tufted.

Stem 1-3 ft. tall, erect or spreading. Sheaths smooth or hairy. Ligule a ring of hairs. Leaves 4'-12' long, 1"-4" wide, smooth on lower surface, rough above, hairy near base.

Panicle 6'-20' long, pyramidal, reddish purple, the branches 2'-8' long, widely spreading, bearded with white hairs in the axils. Spikelets 4-12-flowered, flat, 1 1/2"-4" long, on pedicels as long or longer. Outer scales acute, about equal; flowering scales acute, 3-nerved, small. Stamens 2 or 3, anthers purple.

Dry soil. July to September.

Massachusetts to South Dakota and Colorado, south to Florida and Texas.