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Global warming has caused desiccation of rivers, which has the effect of increasing the importance of artificially irrigated crops. New ways of breeding and cultivating plants, however, may lead to better crops in the wider sense, such as more diverse and environmentally friendly plants that occupy more space. The term “native grasses” expresses the frontier of plant breeding and cultivation for the future.For all who live in the Great Plains states, native grasses are commonplace; yet early settlers and explorers certainly took notice of the lush, green prairies, calling this region a “sea of grass” stretching and waving as far as the eye could see. It remains today that even the gentlest breeze will cause the grasses to swell and roll across the landscape. These grasses are resilient and tough, their roots reaching deep to survive the harsh life of the Plains.
“Native” can encompass all types of plants from trees and shrubs to wildflowers and grasses. It can be interpreted to be as narrow as plants that are only original to an immediate area or as broad as what is native to a state, country, or continent. Generally speaking, the term “native plants” refers to plants that are original to an area, but “native” can actually be interpreted in many ways. To me, it includes plants of the Great Plains because this is where I live, but the definition is really a matter of perspective.As summer ends, the fluffy, reddish bronze flowers of purple lovegrass develop and cover the entire plant, while the bright green foliage turns shades of red and orange. This plant is tolerant of a wide range of soils, even infertile sand. For tight soil, just raise the bed a few inches to allow the soil to drain after a rain. This short-lived grass grows for approximately three to five years but may grow longer if uncrowded. Given plenty of sun, it will be happy wherever it is planted.
In full sun or light dappled shade, this grass is easy to grow and always beautiful. The wide leaves and lush growth have an almost tropical appearance. In early summer, slender stems are topped with flowers that produce a crop of jointed seeds. Clumps get large and die out in the center, so division every three or four years is necessary. Autumn frosts turn the leaves shades of red-bronze. Eastern gamagrass prefers moist soil and tolerates quick-draining standing water.Grasses can be incorporated individually as ornamental or structural elements. They can also be grouped or massed, or they can serve as the very basis a designed plant community. Native grasses add striking fall color and visual interest well into winter; they provide food, nesting materials and habitat cover for birds; and they serve as host plants for numerous butterfly and moth species, as well. (Source: nativeplantherald.prairienursery.com)