Sorghastrum pic Sorghastrum nutans

Pictured above: Sorghastrum nutans

This genus, like Andropogon, has spikelets in pairs, with one spikelet sessile and perfect and the other pedicelled. The pedicelled spikelet, however, is completely reduced and represented only by the hairy pedicel. Glumes are pubescent and awnless; lemmas have a twisted and bent, long awn.

There is 1 species in MN and it is native. 

Common species:
Sorghastrum nutans (sore gas' trum new' tans)

  • Synonyms: None
  • Common names: Indian grass; Lakota: peji sasa inkpa jiji
  • Origin and habitat: Native over much of the eastern U.S.; tall-grass prairies and open oak savannas
  • Identifying characters: A loose bunchgrass-type perennial with nodes that covered by long silky hairs. Ligules are a fringe of hairs and there are large erect auricles present. Inflorescences are slender golden panicles that open widely at maturity with spikelets 6-8 mm long.
  • Comments: A dominant member of the tall-grass community, Indian grass responds very well to periodic burning. Seedlings are tolerant of a wide range of extremes and can readily invade somewhat disturbed sites. However, since this species doesn’t tiller, it generally occurs as isolated clumps. It also provides good forage. As with other of our native tall grasses, Indian grass is gaining favor with gardeners. Its open, almost plume-like, panicle provides gold color in late summer and fall gardens. 

Sorghastrum nutans

Additional species in Minnesota: 


Copyright 2002, A.F. Cholewa, J.F. Bell Museum of Natural History, University of Minnesota / No portion of this guide may be duplicated without written permission of author.