Botanical Name: Chasmanthium latifolium
Common Name: Inland Sea Oats, Indian Wood Oats, Wild Oats, River Oats
Description: This is a really pretty and unusual native ornamental grass. Inland Sea Oats is a hardy perennial grass best suited for the shade, yes, the shade! It’s one of the very few native ornamental grasses that prefer part shade to shade over full sun. Their height is about three feet, with a “clump” usually around two feet wide. I think the golden chevron-shaped seed heads are super cool. It is also drought tolerant even though it is indigenous to riverbanks, floodplains, limestone glades, and edges of moist woodlands.
Inland Sea Oats are low maintenance and transplant easily. The leaves are nearly evergreen, turning golden brown in the fall and early winter. They can be cut back in late winter to keep them looking tidy. What’s cool too is the seeds also change colors from a translucent green to ivory, before darkening and dropping in the winter.
Small mammals and granivorous birds eat the seeds. The leaves are grazed by some mammals and are often used as nesting material by birds. These butterflies use it as a host plant: Pepper and Salt Skipper, Bells Road Side Skipper, and Bronzed Roadside Skipper. So even if it spreads too much, if you let all those Skipper butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves, the caterpillars will help in keeping the grass in check. It’s a win/win for everyone! (just one more reason to not use chemicals in your garden)
If you plant these in a spot with a lot of sun and a lot of moisture, they will spread. If you don’t want them to spread that much, cut back on the watering and cut off the seeds in the fall. It’s also pretty easy to pull up the new growth if it pops up in areas you don’t want it in.
This plant in 1-gallon containers is 1-2′ tall and wide.
Fun Fact: The common name derives from its resemblance to Sea Oats, Uniola paniculata, of which it is not related to.
Hardiness Zones 5 – 9