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For Your Garden - January 2010

Winter is a season of rest for the garden. Can your garden remain a showplace in winter? It can if you use native plants in your landscaping. These species are adapted to the Illinois climate, and their foliage can add color and interest to the garden in winter, as well as providing food and shelter for wildlife species. As perennials, you can enjoy them for many years to come.

prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis)

Prairie dropseed is a native grass that can be found throughout Illinois , although it more commonly grows in the northern half of the state than in southern Illinois. It grows in mesic prairies, those that have good drainage but remain moist during most of the year, and also in hill prairies and other dry areas. This bunch grass grows in a cluster and is sometimes described as looking like a “fountain of grass” as the long, thin leaves arch gracefully to the ground from the central portion of the plant. Leaves may be 20 inches long and are about one-eighth inch wide. The plant can be two to three feet tall. It blooms in August and September. The flowers are on individual stalks in a cluster at the top of the flowering stems. Prairie dropseed turns orange-brown in autumn, and its leaves and flowering stalks persist in winter.

Classification and taxonomy are based on Mohlenbrock, Robert H. 2014. Vascular flora of Illinois: A field guide. Fourth edition. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale. 536 pp.

Illinois Range

Native Plant Information

For more information about Illinois native plants, visit our Native Habitat Descriptions, Requirements, and Plant Lists page. The following publications are available from the IDNR on our publications page.


​Kingdom: Plantae
Phylum: Magnoliophyta
Class: Liliopsida
Order: Cyperales
Family: Poaceae

Illinois Status: common, native