Tripsacum dactyloides

eastern gamagrass, fakahatchee grass


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Type


Leaf Shape


Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Month

May - November

Height (meters)

0.9 - 3.0

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Wetland Coefficient of Conservatism


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Large grass from short thick rhizomes, often visible on soil surface, inflorescence 2-3 narrow cylindrical spikes, forms clumps often bare in the center.

Cultural Information

Gamagrass spreads slowly by short, jointed rhizomes. It produces small quantities of seed but can be propagated from them. The seeds ripen one at a time and it is difficult to collect large quantities of them by hand. Commercial seed is readily avaiable. Seeds average approximately 4,200/lb.

Animal Use

A preferred forage for cattle. Often called an "ice cream" plant by cattlemen. Provides good wildlife cover and seed.

Natural History

A warm-season, tall grass that is found throughout the eastern United States and extends west to Colorado. It grows on a variety of soils but prefers sites that are moist, at least part of the year, and that are fairly deep. It often grows in association with switchgrass and sometimes shares wet, deep meadows with big bluestem. Gammagrass is thought to be a close relative of corn, but the two do not cross naturally. As a forage grass it is known to range managers as a "ice cream plant" and the "granddad of grasses." It is palatable, nutritious and readily eaten by all classes of livestock, and is considered to be one of the most productive native grasses. However, because cattle particularly like this grass, and it is killed by close grazing, it is missing from most rangeland. Gamagrass has a large seed and is very palatable to people but it is encased in a tough outer hull. It has been found in archeological sites but little is known about how it was used as food. Some believe that is was popped like popcorn. The popped kernels of Tripsacum are almost indistinguishable from open-pollinated strawberry popcorn (Komarek 1965). It is one of the species selected by Wes Jackson of the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas, as a potential perennial grain crop. It fixes small amounts of atmospheric nitrogen, has a protein content of over 27% and a carbohydrate content of over 51% (Jackson 1978).


Low woods, wet prairie, ditches, roadsides, meadows.