prairie dropseed

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed) is useful in the landscape for its fine-textured foliage that brings year-round interest.

Prairie dropseed is a bunch-type grass that grows up to 3 feet tall. Its leaves are narrow and arch outward, giving plants a tuft-like appearance. Leaves are green in spring and summer, changing to rusty-yellow in the fall. Native Americans ground the seeds of prairie dropseed to produce flour. In Lurie Garden, prairie dropseed is a favorite for birds to browse for seed. Some people say that prairie dropseed flowers produce a popcorn-like scent!

In Lurie Garden, S. heterolepis is used to weave together groups of other plants–acting as an ecologically important and aesthetically effective connector of horizontal and vertical spaces between planting groups. Summer brings foliage that is a rich green, fading to a golden rust color in the fall, and eventually to a light yellow-brown in the heart of winter. For the true four-season garden, S. heterolepis provides not only color and texture interest but also long-lived structural impact. The rounded-tufted to reflexed vase shape of S. heterolepis is maintained throughout the year, with foliage tough enough to sustain its shape even under heavy snowfall. Additionally, prairie dropseed imparts excellent ecological function to the garden–providing seed for birds and other animals to feed on throughout the winter, and furnishing an ample supply of nest-building material in the late winter and early spring.


Botanical Name Sporobolus heterolepis
Common Name prairie dropseed
Family Poaceae
USDA Zone 3 thru 9
Light Requirement Full Sun
Season(s) of interest spring, summer, fall, winter
Height and Spread 2-3ft x 2-3ft (60-90cm x 60-90cm)
Flower Color Pinkish Brown
Attracts Wildlife Provides Food for Birds, Hosts Caterpillars of Butterflies/Moths,
Additional Information Native to Chicago Region. Native range: Quebec to Saskatchewan South to Connecticut, Eastern Texas, and Colorado.
Location in Lurie Garden Northeast Light Plate, Northwest Light Plate, Southeast Light Plate, Southwest Light Plate, West Meadow, East Meadow, North Dark Plate, East Dark Plate, Bird Border – Monroe

Average Flowering Time