Tag Archives: Nassella tenuissima

pink lawn flamingoes, reloaded

When life gives a crappy cellphone video camera, well, you make crappy cellphone videos. Not that the world needs any more of them but I’m such a narcissist that I’m sure these are only crappy in their total lack of technical polish. I’m sure they’ll be going viral any day now…

A trip to Walter Anderson Nursery a few months back netted this find, a wind-activated updating of the classic pink lawn flamingo.

And in keeping with the motif of things blowing in the wind…

At graduation for Pomona College last month they held the festivities outdoors, under old, old sycamores growing in the riparian lawn habitat. Overhead they’d set up blue and white banners that on this mild morning were being set in motion by the breeze.

Two months ago I stopped off briefly at Chapman University, where I passed by this lovely planting of the very lovely and equally evil (in my book) Mexican feather grass, Nassella tenuissima. (Why is this plant evil? you may ask. I was out weeding this morning, and pulled up a dozen or so seedlings from plants that I pulled up a decade ago. It’s also undergoing review for consideration as an invasive exotic species in California. Notice their planting is surrounded by concrete, but I’m sure they have the stuff coming up in irrigated spots nearby. (Maybe this started out as one plant?)) The California native purple three-awn, Aristida purpurea, would do very much the same thing, only with more of a delicate purple tinge. It reseeds, too, but for me not nearly so prolifically as the plant in the video.

out with the old

Feathergrass in the ground

This will be the year that I finally win the battle against Mexican feathergrass, the blogger said optimistically. I doubt that I’ll be seeing the end of this beautiful but wildly overprolific grass any time soon, but I’ve completed pulling all the parent plants in the garden. With the source of seeds removed, the hundreds of unwanted seedlings that I have to pull up every year should diminish.

Feathergrass seedlings under sage

So how bad was the feathergrass problem? Here’s a shot underneath a black sage in the back yard, no closer than seventy-five feet from the nearest adult feathergrass plant capable of setting seed. The seed just blew downwind and set up household in the sheltered germinating conditions in the shade of the sage. Other areas of the garden will look like this when the rains begin again and all the banked seed begins to germinate. I hate to think that these might get to the local urban canyon, four houses away.

My relationship with Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima or Stipa tenuissima) started off in the early 1990s. Like most people who’ve planted it, I saw it at the nursery with its stalks weaving delicately in its beguiling come-hither way and fell in love. I bought two.

At first things between us went well. The grasses spread a bit, but the thought of free plants were a real bonus. I even gave plants away.

Though prolific, the plant isn’t currently listed as an invasive species on the master Cal-IPA inventory, but appears on a 2007 list of nominated species. It’s clear from some of the comments on a Fresh Dirt posting that it’s a growing problem in some areas, my neighborhood included.

Feathergrass in the trash

Yes, the stuff is gorgeous. But too high maintenance and potentially problematic in my area. It’s time for us to part ways.

So how will I get my fix for delicate, feathery grasses? This year has been my first time growing the native Aristida purpurea, purple three-awn, a species that’s found locally. The plant is shorter than the common feathergrass, which might be a bonus, depending on your garden situation. And unlike the nassella it has a decidedly purple color to it while it’s growing–very nice. I’ll post photos once my plants get a little bigger. I have no idea if it’ll be the same issue of the plant volunteering all over the garden, though I doubt it. Even if it escapes to the wilds, it’ll be in the company of others of its species. Not a problem.