Posts Tagged River Oats

River Oats: A Native Grass Worth Adding to your Landscape

Chasmanthium latifolium

Chasmanthium latifolium

I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo. It was windy, and all those dangly seed heads were dancing merrily with every gust. River Oats are a lovely native grass suitable for moist, shady spots in your piedmont garden. Native to the Carolinas and Georgia, it occurs naturally on the banks of rivers and streams, bottomland forests, and other wet spots, especially in fertile soils. It has a number of other common names, including Inland Sea Oats, Indian Wood Oats, Wild Oats, Flathead Oats, and Upland Oats.

It looks a lot like a coastal grass famous for stabilizing our sand dunes: Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata). If you’ve visited our southeastern US sand dunes, you’ve likely been told not to pick the Sea Oats, because their roots help prevent sand dunes from moving. When you pick the pretty seed heads for arrangements, you reduce the species’ chances for propagating and thereby stabilizing more dunes.

River Oats have no such restrictions. And they are lovely long-lasting additions to dried flower arrangements. They are one of the few native shade-tolerant grasses that grow well in the southeastern piedmont, and they’re also very easy to establish — as long as you give them decent soil and a bit of moisture.

River Oats forms clumps. Flower stalks range between 2-4 feet. Mine stay about 2.5 feet tall. I grow mine at the bottom of my north slope garden that is now enclosed by a deer fence. But even before that fence was in place, the deer never even nibbled on this grass. As is true of just about all our native grasses, the deer ignore them.

These grasses would be ideal in a rain garden — a low spot in your yard where water collects after rains. That extra bit of moisture is all they need — as long as they’re also in the shade. Because they’re clumpers, they mix well with other moisture-loving native flowers, such as Swamp Milkweed. River Oats also work as part of potted plant arrangements — as long as they are sited on a shady porch and adequately watered.

If you don’t cut the mature seed stalks for flower arrangements, they will morph from summer ivory to an autumnal soft brown, eventually weathering to a silvery gray by late winter. By then, most of the seeds will have been devoured by small mammals and grain-loving birds. The leaves are a food source for several species of native skipper butterflies.

I planted three pots of River Oats around a large boulder at the bottom of my hill over 20 years ago. Very gradually, the clumps have grown, and just a few seeds missed by animals have created new plants. The boulder now has a soft and lovely green skirt of River Oats, topped much of the year by dancing dangling seed heads. I highly recommend this native grass to all piedmont gardeners, especially to those with shady damp spots in their yards.

And while I’m writing of wet spots, I must share this recent photo of one of the many dragonflies that patrol the numerous wet areas in my yard. This one was lingering around the front water feature. We think we’ve even identified it, but if I’ve got it wrong, I hope an Odonata expert will set me right.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

 

 

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Wonder Spouse Photo Extravaganza

A firefly rests on a volunteer Morning Glory.

A firefly rests on a volunteer Morning Glory.

You’re in luck, loyal blog readers. Wonder Spouse found himself with some time this weekend, and he spent much of it post-processing the backlog of yard and garden photos that he had accumulated. All of the shots in this entry were taken in one morning in early September, as summer plants were fading, and autumn fruits and flowers were starting to appear. Remember that you can click on any photo to see a larger version.

Late summer through early fall is the peak bloom period for one of my favorite moisture-loving wildflowers: Jewelweed. Here’s a clump blooming on our floodplain:

The deer eat it, but sheer numbers ensure its reappearance each growing season.

The deer eat it, but sheer numbers ensure its reappearance each growing season.

You really need a close view to appreciate the delicate beauty of the flowers:

So gorgeous!

So gorgeous!

Late summer is always adorned with lobelias in my yard. Some are planted deliberately, but many randomly pop up without any input from me. I do take the ripe seed pods each fall and walk about the yard sprinkling tiny cinnamon-colored seeds as I go.

The deep scarlet of a Cardinal Flower contrasts with the gray tree trunk behind it.

The deep scarlet of a Cardinal Flower contrasts with the gray tree trunk behind it.

Equally breath-taking are the Great Blue Lobelias — same genus as the Cardinals, but a different species.

What's not to love about these deep blue towering beauties?

What’s not to love about these deep blue towering beauties?

Seed production was getting serious in early September when Wonder Spouse took these photos. Check out his gorgeous close-up of a Bigleaf Magnolia Seed Cone:

Magnolia macrophylla seed cone

Magnolia macrophylla seed cone

The Jack-in-the-Pulpits in the wetland still held on to their ragged-looking leaves, but they were being pulled down by the weight of their bright red fruits.

Bright red Jack-in-the-Pulpit fruits are easy to spot among the dominant greens and browns in the wetland.

Bright red Jack-in-the-Pulpit fruits are easy to spot among the dominant greens and browns in the wetland.

One Joe Pye Weed cluster was still blooming just a bit:

Joe Pye Weeds finishing their bloom cycle.

Joe Pye Weeds finishing their bloom cycle.

While a large one in the front yard was all feathery seed head:

Joe Pye Weed seed head

Joe Pye Weed seed head

The seeds of these River Oats made a nice resting spot for this little butterfly.

The butterfly is some kind of skipper, I think. I'm not good at identifying them.

The butterfly is some kind of skipper, I think. I’m not good at identifying them.

I don’t think I’ve ever written about my Garlic Chives. This easy-to-grow herb sends up lovely flowers every late summer. The leaves have a more assertive onion flavor than Chives.

Ornamental and tasty Garlic Chives

Ornamental and tasty Garlic Chives

Pollinators always swarm the Garlic Chive flowers when they open.

Fireflies seem especially fond of the flowers of Garlic Chives.

Fireflies seem especially fond of the flowers of Garlic Chives.

As is always the case, we encountered a few animal residents as we wandered our five acres that morning.

The Eastern Cottontail clan had a productive year, thanks to our abundant rainfall.

The Eastern Cottontail clan had a productive year, thanks to our abundant rainfall.

Web worms create unsightly webs in the trees, but never seem to negatively impact their hosts.

Web worms create unsightly webs in the trees, but never seem to negatively impact their hosts.

Cicadas thrummed their summer chants as usual. We spotted this shed skin during our wanderings.

Cicadas thrummed their summer chants as usual. We spotted this shed skin during our wanderings.

An American Toad didn't appreciate our accidental intrusion into his territory.

An American Toad didn’t appreciate our accidental intrusion into his territory.

And, finally, to close this impressive display of Wonder Spouse’s photographic skills, one of our many dragonflies. This large one was briefly resting on our TV cable line high above us, making for a positively artistic shot.

Most of the dragonflies left about the same time that Summer officially departed.

Most of the dragonflies left about the same time that Summer officially departed.

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