Close-up of a population of Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Close-up of the silvery inflorescence of Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
Growth habit of Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.
A field of Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha). One of 100+ species of Pacific Northwest native plants available at Sparrowhawk Native Plants, Native Plant Nursery in Portland, Oregon.

Prairie Junegrass

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Koeleria macrantha

Prairie Junegrass is a cool season perennial grass that forms light green tufts around two feet tall. Its flowers appear in late spring to early summer as silvery, light green plumes dancing on tall stalks, above the dense, bunching vegetation below. By mid-summer the plumes turn tan and some or all of the plant may go dormant until fall. It is an ideal replacement for ornamental bunch grasses. 

  • Plant type/canopy layer: deciduous perennial grass
  • Size at maturity: 0-3' high, 0-2' wide
  • Light requirements: full sun
  • Moisture requirements: dry to moist soil, prefers well-drained
  • Bloom time: late spring - early summer
  • Growth rate/ease: moderate growth rate, easy to grow
  • Wildlife support: attracts and supports bees and other insect pollinators, caterpillar host plant and larval food source. Plants in the Koeleria genus are host plant for the Nevada Skipper butterfly (Hesperia nevada)
  • Native habitat/range: Locally common in grasslands, meadows, upland prairies, forest openings, savannas from sea level to 2900 m throughout Oregon, CA, ID, NV, WA and much of North America, except the Atlantic coast. Portland Plant List - yes.
  • Special features & uses: drought-tolerant, deer resistant, will grow under Black Walnut trees, tolerates air pollution making it a good fit for the urban environment and green roofs  

Gardening with Prairie Junegrass:  This is a super-easy plant to grow. Simply give it a sunny location with well-drained rocky or sandy soil. Avoid wet and/or heavy soils or shade. It’s extraordinarily drought-tolerant and generally a great fit for harsher urban environments like parking strips and green roofs, provided the drainage is good. After flowering, it will likely go dormant in the peak of the summer, and return to its more attractive state in fall. However, mid-summer dormancy should not be considered unsightly as it provides excellent invertebrate habitat; habitat = beauty! This species works well mixed into meadowscapes and rock gardens with other upland grasses and wildflowers, rather than as the centerpiece or part of a conspicuous border. Will self-seed in optimum growing conditions. 

 

Photo Credits: "Koeleria macrantha" by Matt Lavin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0