Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Volunteer Grass: Friend or Thug? March 5, 2009

Filed under: grasses,my garden,weeds — greenwalks @ 9:38 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

This breezy little grass showed up in my parking strip a couple of years ago. I don’t know where it came from, since I haven’t seen it in any neighbor’s gardens.

It’s in a silly spot, right at the edge of the sidewalk, but at least it flops over the other direction. I should probably move it, but first I’d like to know if it’s something I should keep around. I love the way grasses look, but I’m allergic to them so have not really welcomed too many into my garden. Any guesses on what it might be? Looks kind of like some stipas I’ve seen, but I’m certainly no expert.

Unknown volunteer floppy grass

One possible clue – it’s having babies!

Unknown volunteer grass 'babies'

Hm, maybe that means it’s likely to want to take over. I didn’t notice these sprouts in previous years – maybe the hard winter did something to put the plant into a frenzy of spring replication??

It’s funny how the definition of a weed is just a plant in a place we don’t want it. Since I tend to be a cheap and disorganized type of gardener, I usually welcome self-sowers with open arms. But I don’t want to let a real thug get established! I’ll be curious to see if anyone has an ID.Thanks!


10 Responses to “Volunteer Grass: Friend or Thug?”

  1. David Perry Says:

    Looks like Mexican Feather Grass to me. A very happy self-seeder. Some consider it a bane. Others love it.

  2. Melanthia Says:

    Looks like Mexican Feather Grass. I have it in my parking strip and it provides lovely movement out there. I don’t have quite as many babies as you do, but they’re there. I just pluck them out and place them elsewhere or give them away.

  3. shibaguyz Says:

    Definitely Mexican Feather Grass, Nassella tenuissima. We grew this on our balcony when we lived in Downtown Seattle three years ago. When we bought our home here in West Seattle, we brought one plant with us. That plant is long gone (relocated to a neighbor) but not before it reseeded all along our retaining wall. We love the little fronds that spring up randomly every year. It’s beautiful, reseeds easily and the cuttings at the end of the season make great basket liners and look decorative tied in bundles for harvest displays.

    We have fond memories when we look at our little Feather Grass babies springing up. šŸ™‚

  4. Racquel Says:

    I just love volunteers, sometimes they turn out to be real treasures in the garden. šŸ™‚

  5. Megan Says:

    Agreed on everyone’s id, Stipa tenuissima, aka Nassella, aka Mexican Feather Grass. They do seed like crazy, but they’re not hard to get rid of if you want to. I like them when they’re young and fresh, they seem to get kind of wooly with age, so I end up digging and tossing them when they’re older and perennially look buff colored and matted. I think they look a little better if you comb out the seed heads that get into a kind of tangled mess. But then at some point, I get tired of the combing and just pull them out.
    The best use I’ve seen for them was in the Ken Druse book, the collector’s garden, where they’re paired up with evening primrose. I tried the combo in my own yard and felt like it was too messy looking, but it looked just right in the book. Seems like that was in some botanical garden up your way. I’ll have to look it up.

  6. Grace Says:

    Oh yes, I’m familiar with this baby and babies, and more babies. The plants in my garden don’t look all the terrific right now so I’m cutting mine back “hard” as the British authors tout, leaving about an inch or so of plant above the soil line. This will cause the plant to get into action and produce a fresh, green tuft. This grass also looks great in a container, either by itself or mixed with other plants for contrast. And unlike a lot of volunteers, (lemon balm!) its roots are shallow making it easy to pull. Personally I wouldn’t allow a lot of volunteers to remain next to their mommy because one of the attributes of this grass is its tight clump. A large spread of it might be a little chaotic. Just my opinion… Now I need to get outside and cut mine back. šŸ™‚

  7. RainGardener Says:

    I have a question and didn’t know how else to reach you. I was just reading the post on your trip to Portland. Do you have to get permission when you take a picture of someone’s flowers, yard, house? I was curious because I have a pic I was thinking about using that I took a while back – the house doesn’t really show, just the raised bed.

  8. I planted 2 1-gallon plants of this 10+ year ago and now have “a few” more than that. Probably half of the weeds I pull out are this grass. I think here in the California coastal desert it’s just a little too dry for this to get invasive outside of riparian areas, but it certainly wanders around people’s irrigated gardens.

  9. jean Says:

    Hi Karen. I just spotted your comment on my blog about the heaths. I would be chuffed to get some (!) but would like to exchange for something. Would you be interested in astrantias? You are so kind to think of this.

  10. Cynthia Says:

    Hi Karen šŸ™‚ I am attempting to get back in the game with leaving comments after my month long absence. From reading every one’s comments on this post it looks like you have got yourself a very lovely volunteer. I love growing grasses- especially in containers. I’m not very good at identifying them though! But this one sounds nice and I’m going to have to remember it.

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