According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida has the fourth-highest biodiversity in the country and is third in the number of vulnerable or endangered plant and animal species that live in the state. As some species are seeing their habitats dissolve, it’s becoming increasingly important that Floridians take steps to preserve the lands where these plants and animals thrive. Here’s a list of native grasses found in Florida.
1. Broom Sedge
Broom Sedge is a perennial grass that thrives in warm weather. It can grow to be 2 – 4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide, and develops a dense, tall tuft of blooming flowers that turn orange or coppery-red in the fall. These flowers are also covered with silky white hairs in late summer and the fall.
Broom sedge is a hardy grass; it can survive in mineral-rich, highly acidic soil as long as the soil is well-drained. It grows best in full sun or partial shade and is drought-tolerant. This grass is perfect for prairie plantings and bank slope erosion control.
Horsetail, also known as rough horsetail or scouring rush, is a perennial grass that produces bamboo-like shoots alongside its leaves. It spreads quickly and will reach full height in a matter of weeks. For this reason, it’s not recommended that you plant horsetail in a pot. Likewise, it should be monitored and managed to keep it from overrunning your garden.
Horsetail is typically planted in early spring, but it can be planted at almost any time of year. This plant thrives in moist environments and can even grow in standing water. As a result, it is frequently planted next to water gardens or swampy areas. It’s also commonly used to accent landscape borders.
3. Soft Rush
This perennial wetland grass is also known as popular rush or mat rush. It grows in bogs, marshes, and swamps, and its stems can reach heights of 12 – 36 inches. Soft rush grows best in direct sunlight but can tolerate some shade. Soft rush is also sustainable as a house plant as long as the potting soil remains moist.
Soft rush remains green in warmer climates but loses its leaves when temperatures fall in cooler climates. This type of grass looks great when planted in or near ponds, damp areas, low areas, and meadows.
Switchgrass is a native prairie grass that has grown in popularity as an ornamental grass.
This hardy perennial grass can grow as tall as 2 – 5 feet. It does not begin to develop until late spring because it is a warm-season grass. Its roots are deeply embedded, reaching several feet down into the soil. Its narrow leaves have a distinct midrib and a white hairy patch where they join the stem. The leaves turn crimson in the autumn before turning various shades of yellow in the winter before withering to beige.
Switchgrass can be used as a focal plant or to add height to gardens. It can also be used as a seasonal addition to your garden, planted near water, or in swamp gardens.
5. Smooth Cordgrass
Smooth cordgrass is a perennial grass that grows up to 9 feet tall. Their roots are strong and their stems are sturdy; both of these features help to minimize beach erosion. Its leaves, which can grow to be up to 20 inches long and half an inch wide, are smooth and blade-like. It produces little white flowers that bloom from July through September.
Smooth cordgrass has evolved to flourish in soil and water with a salinity of up to 60%. It grows best in warm wet climates.
6. Sea Oats
Sea oats is a well-known Florida grass that’s often found along the coastline. They typically grow to a height of 4 – 6 feet and thrive in direct sunlight. Sea oats grow fast and vast. This grass type collects wind-blown sand, which helps create dune growth and control erosion. In addition, its seeds provide food for small birds and insects from late autumn until the winter.
Sea oats tolerate drought, heat, and salty shores. It flourishes in environments that are occasionally inundated by sea water and high winds. Sea oats are more commonly used to stabilize sand dunes than as a decorative grass.
7. Pink Muhly Grass
Pink muhly grass actively grows on a mound with tall, blue-green leaves until September. It then produces magnificent feathery pink flumes. Overall, the plant can grow up to 4 feet tall in thickets that are 3 feet wide. It’s a drought-tolerant and low-maintenance perennial; it only needs direct sunlight and well-drained clay or shallow rocky soil to thrive.