Sorghastrum nutans

yellow indiangrass, yellow indian-grass, indiangrass


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Margin


Leaf Type


Leaf Shape


Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Month

September - November

Height (meters)

0.8 - 2.5

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Easily identified by its claw-like ligule and two ear-like lobes where the leaf blade is attached to the sheath. When sterile, it is easily confused with Paspalum floridanum, Panicum virgatum, and sometimes Andropogon gerardii. Paspalum floridanum has a membranous, pointed ligule. The ligule of Panicum virgatum is a dense clump of hair, and the ligule of Andropogon gerardii is a sparse tuft of hairs.

Cultural Information

Seeds may be harvested with a combine, a seed stripper, or by hand-stripping seed from late September to October. It is easily grown from seed and is produced commercially in pure stands. Seed germination is reported to increase with cold/stratification (Steffen 1997). Seeds from local ecotypes should be collected on remnants or restorations. The heads open to flower then close again. Fertile spikelets are 1/4 - 1/3" long with an awn three times as long as the spikelet. The seed should be debearded if it is to be drilled. There are 132,800 - 210,000 seeds/lb and commercial seed has a purity of 68%. The recommended planting rate is 7-15 lbs/acre. It has been shown to respond to nitrogen fertilizer under range conditions, with increased foliage and seed production, however, fertilizer use is not recommended in restorations or presevations due to profound ecological effects on the plant community.

Animal Use

A preferred nutritious forage for cattle, either as green forage or dry prairie hay. Birds eat the seed. Larval host plant for skippers, little satyr and wood nymph butterflies.

Natural History

A warm-season bunch grass that is found throughout the bluestem belt of the United States. It is a dominant tall grass in much of tallgrass prairie and is found in association with the bluestems. It prefers moist to upland areas in well-drained soils but can tolerate clay in mesic, dry mesic and dry habitats. The inflorescence closes at night and opens during the day often confusing the early morning botanist. It is very nutritious and is eaten by all classes of livestock, fresh or as hay. When grazed during the growing season to shorter than 5-8 inches it is a decreaser. It is found throughout the eastern United States from Canada to Mexico and west to Arizona.


Moist or dry prairies, open woods, fields, roadsides.