Texas Native Grasses
Grasses form the core of our natural landscape. Hays County is fortunate enough to have an impressive array of native grasses which fit all of our environmental conditions. These native grasses thrive in our climate, require less maintenance, and suffer from fewer pests and diseases than foreign grass strains. Most importantly, they are the real workhorses of the native landscape. They hold the soil to prevent wind and water erosion. Their extensive root systems loosen the soil and create a pathway for water to move deeper into the soil. Healthy native grasses choke out less desirable vegetation. Wildlife, insects, and bugs rely on the grasses for their basic needs of food, water, and shelter. The seeds feed many animals, and grasses serve as homes and cover for many species. Water collected on a grass blade or at the base of the plant provides a water course for smaller creatures. The interaction of grasses with humans is the most complex aspect. Ranchers prize pastures that have the Big Four grasses – little bluestem, big bluestem, Indiangrass and switchgrass – as optimal forage for commercial livestock production.
Humans also introduce major challenges to the native grasses – invasive plants, expansion of non-permeable cover with continuing development, exhibiting a lack of appreciation for the qualities of the native grasses. Non-native turf grasses that require heavy irrigation and maintenance could be replaced by a blend of native grasses developed at the L.B.J. Wildflower Center. Planted groups of ornamental native grasses create beautiful displays in yards. As we drive by or hike in a field of blooming native grasses, it is important that we understand not only their addition to our quality of life in Hays County, but also the impressive and essential functions that these grasses perform.
Books for Grass Identification
Coffey, Charles and Russell Stevens. Grasses of Southern Oklahoma and North Texas: Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2004.
Gould, F.W. Common Texas Grasses: Texas A&M University Press, 1978.
Loflin, Brian and Shirley. Grasses of the Texas Hill Country: Texas A&M University Press, 2005.
Rector, Barron S. Know Your Grasses: Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M, 2003.