Edmonton Native Plant Society
native plant stewards
Native Grasses etc.


Poaceae (formerly Gramineae)

Anthoxanthum hirta = Hierochloe odorata
Sweet Grass

Sweetgrass is a very attractive grass, not too tall (about 60cm) with wide, glossy leaves that are a vibrant light green in spring. It flowers early and the seed heads are heavy with plump seeds by June. It's interesting that Sweetgrass is very hard to grow from seed, and it rarely self-seeds. It's best to start with a small plant, not seeds, if you want to add this grass to your garden.

If you find some Sweetgrass in the wild and want to identify it, try the scratch and sniff test. Take a piece of a leaf and scratch it with your fingernail. Have a sniff - it should have an unmistakable sweet vanilla-like smell. This is due to the presence of coumarin, a fragrant organic chemical compound.​


​Sweetgrass is rhizomatous and spreads like wildfire in all directions. This would not be a good situation if you have a small yard. Your Sweetgrass could take over your whole garden. If you have a small space but would love some Sweetgrass, find a large pot, cut the bottom out and bury it. Then fill it with soil and plant your Sweetgrass. It will be contained and won't be able to escape.
Agropyron subsecundum
Bearded Wheat Grass or Awned Wheat Grass

Medium-sized, thickly-tufted perennial bunch grass, with loosely spreading leaves. The straw-coloured seed-heads are large and impressive, and look a little like those of cultivated wheat.

Bloom time: June, July
Ht: 60 cm - 100 cm (24" - 40")
Full sun.

High germination rate. Sow the seeds in spring, then transplant the young plants into their permanent location by mid to late summer. They will be mature by the second year.
Bouteloua gracilis
Blue Grama Grass

Densely-tufted, short perennial grass with bluish-green leaves that are sometimes curled. Its most impressive feature is its comb-like seed-heads. These are held at right angles to the stem and look like a crowd of cute little false eyelashes standing up above the leaves. Termed ‘warm-season’, it won’t emerge in spring until the soil is at the right temperature.

Bloom time: July
Ht: 15 cm - 40 cm (6" - 16")
Full sun; drought-tolerant.

Sow in May to mature the following summer. Although it is a good grass for dry, poor soils, moisture is needed for proper germination and good root establishment in the first few months of life.
Bromus ciliatus
Fringed Brome

Medium-sized plant that has broad, downward-curving leaves and large, graceful, nodding seed-heads. It is a bunch grass and will not spread.

Bloom time: July
Ht: 60 cm - 90 cm (24" - 36")
Sun or semi-shade. Likes any kind of soil.

Good germination rate. Plant the seeds in late fall or late spring directly into the garden.
Bromus anomalus
Nodding Brome
Elymus canadensis
Canada Wild Rye

The beautiful, curving seed-heads, borne on stout upright stems, look like those of cultivated rye, and are large, green, and bristly. By late summer the seed-heads have changed to a beautiful golden colour and the bristles, or awns, curl so that they all point in different directions. It is a bunch grass so it doesn't spread by rhizomes.

Bloom time: July, August
Ht: 90 cm - 150 cm (36: - 60")
Full sun; drought-tolerant. Grow in any soil, even pure sand or heavy clay.

Sow seeds in early to mid May directly in the garden.
Festuca saximontana
Rocky Mountain Fescue

A densely-tufted grass that stays jade green throughout the spring and early summer, turning shades of rust and red in autumn. Excellent for a rock or border garden. Spiky leaves with multiple short seed heads.

Bloom time: July
Ht: 20cm – 60cm (8” – 24”)
Full sun. Average soil conditions.

Seed direct in late fall, or early spring. Cover seeds with 1 cm of soil.  
Hesperostipa comata = Stipa comata
Needle-and-Thread Grass
Koelaria macrantha
June Grass

One of the first grasses to start growing in the spring; in June the flower spikes are a lovely, soft, silvery-green. Suitable for a rock garden or at the front of the border. A bunch grass, it won't spread, but it does self-seed.

Bloom time: June, July
Ht: 15 cm - 60 cm (6" - 24")
Full sun; average well-drained soil.

Moderately good germination rate. Plant the seeds in early June directly into the garden.
Piptatherum canadense = Oryzopsis canadensis
Canada Rice Grass



Carex aurea
Golden Sedge
Carex bebbii
Bebb's sedge
Cotton Grass



Acorus calamus
Sweet flag

Sweetflag is native to North America and northern and eastern Asia, but has naturalized in southern Asia and Europe following cultivation. Its common name derives from the presence of an ethereal oil which emits a sweet scent. American sweetflag (Acorus americanus) can be found in many of our northern Alberta wetlands, spreading along shorelines by means of thick rhizomes. Like aroids, its many tiny bisexual flowers are crowded into a spadix, but it differs from them in lacking an obvious broad spathe. The spadix appears characteristically to jut out from the side of the stem, which is continued beyond the spadix as a leaf-like bract. Leaves are cattail-like, except they are bright green and have a broad central ridge down the back. They have a characteristic taste that makes a suspected plant easy to confirm by simple chewing! The fruits are hard on the outside but contain a jelly inside. ​
Calla palustris
Water Arum, Wild Calla



Luzula parviflora
Wood Rush