George Catlin, an artist and explorer of the American West in the 1800's,
once described a prairie in Kansas as, "so high that
Prairie cordgrass is native to the tallgrass prairie and is found in
wet prairies, roadsides, marshy meadows, and along
Prairie cordgrass is capable of reproducing both sexually by seeds and
asexually by rhizomes. Rhizomes are scaly, stout,
woody underground stems that develop into new plants. Rhizomes form a dense, tough mat beneath the ground that protects
the soil from eroding away. A closely related European species has assumed great importance as a soil binder along the
coastal areas of the Netherlands, Northern France, and Southern England. Prairie cordgrass is a warm season, perennial
grass that begins its growth in early spring. The seedhead or spikes develop in late summer.
When prairie cordgrass has matured and reached the end of its growing
season, the plant is very coarse. Domestic and wild
animals will eat it only in the early spring when the plant is succulent and tender. The species can produce forage at a rate of
3,000 to 4,000 pounds (1364 to 1818 kg) per acre. Prairie cordgrass is sometimes cut for hay, although the ground it grows
in is seldom plowed because of its wetness. Prairie cordgrass produces good hiding cover for waterfowl and their young.
American Indians and pioneers used the long leaves and stout stems of prairie cordgrass for thatching roofs and lodges.
Asexually - (asexual reproduction) - a type of reproduction that
is accomplished by an individual without genetic contribution from another
individual. The resulting offspring is genetically identical to the parent
Awn - a bristle-like appendage on a plant.
Spikes - part of the seedhead that contains the flowers and seeds of the grass plant.
Rhizomes - underground stems capable of asexually producing a new plant.
Perennial - a plant that can live more than 2 years.
Brown, Lauren, 1985. Grasslands. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. Publishing, New
Hatch, Stephen and James Stubbendieck, and Charles Butterfield, 1991. North American Range Plants. Univ. of Nebraska
Press, Lincoln, Nebraska.
Hitchcock, A.J., 1971. Manual of Grasses of the U.S. Dover Publications, New York.
Johnson, James and James Nichols, 1982. Plants of South Dakota Grasslands. SDSU, Brookings, S.D. 57007.
Looman, Jan, 1982. Prairie grasses, Pub. 1413. Canadian Government Publishing Centre, Ottawa, Canada.
Jack Isaacs, Nebraska National Forest, Pierre, S.D. 57501. 1993.
Dr. Gary E. Larson, Department of Biology and Micrbiology, SDSU, Brookings, 57707.
Illustration by Bellamy Parks Jansen provided by University of Nebraska Press.
Publication of the Prairie Cordgrass fact sheet was funded through
a Natural Resource Conservation Education Grant,
USDA, Forest Service.