Eastern Gama Grass

Wildflowers usually have pretty colors and shapes. Grass is just grass. I’ve driven past this Eastern Gama grass clump for years.

There seemed to be only one clump along the road. I finally got curious enough to stop, take a few pictures and look it over.

eastern gama grass plant
Eastern Gama grass is hard to miss. It’s big enough to be one of the ornamental grasses sold by nurseries. The clump does get a little larger each year. It seems to prefer sunny, drier places.

This is a big grass. The blades are easily three feet long. The clump is two feet across. Tall flower stalks reach over five feet.

The clumps reminded me of Pampas grass except for the flowering stalks. These looked like a primitive wild corn. Both impressions were wrong.

Eastern Gama grass flowers
Like most grasses Eastern Gama grass is wind pollinated. Anthers hang out like tassels shedding pollen caught by sticky brushes on the seeds down below. The seeds swell up, turn brown and break off or are eaten and land elsewhere to begin a new plant.

As I drove to and from town this year, I noticed several of these big clumps. I stopped, took some more pictures and came home thinking I would look it up in the Grasses guidebook by Lauren Brown.

For me grasses are difficult to identify as the keys use lots of terms I don’t know. Wildflower keys are much the same for me. I prefer pictures.

Skipping the keys, I thumbed through the drawings. This grass wasn’t hard to find.

Eastern Gama grass is native to the tall grass prairies once common in western Missouri. Roadsides are modern day prairies or try to be.

In spite of its size, cattle love it. And it’s a warm season grass, a perennial and makes excellent hay. The goats would probably love it too.

Eastern Gama grass stem
Most of Eastern Gama grass blades come from the root. The blooming stalks have a few blades alternately along them. The base of these blades is wrapped around the stem.

That is the problem. When free ranging livestock love a particular plant, they eat all of it until it is gone. And prairie grasses can be hard to start in pastures.

Since my goat herd is less than half the size it was, I think I’ll give Eastern Gama grass a try. I gathered some seeds from some of the clumps along the road. Maybe I will try starting some seeds in cups like I do the tomatoes. Some I can sow along the road, but inside the fence to avoid the brush cutter.

Perhaps next year there will be clumps of Eastern Gama grass along my section of fence.

An expanse of pasture is one of the beautiful sights of summer. See some in “My Ozark Home.”