Friday, July 8, 2011

Plant profile: Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)

Ornamental grasses used to leave me cold – grass is stuff for animals to eat in my book, so I wasn’t expecting much when I got my first Mexican Feather Grass. However, they have some lovely qualities: Mexican Feather Grass is a graceful, delicate and very fine textured ornamental grass that needs very little water. It grows in a dense fountain-like clump with slender, wiry leaves 1-2 ft tall. The silky flower clusters look great in dried arrangements.

Latin name: Nassella tenuissima ("nass-ELL-ah ten-you-ISS-im-ah") syn. Stipa tenuissima
Common name: Mexican Feather Grass, Silky Thread Grass, Ponytail Grass
Originally from: New Mexico and Texas south through central Mexico.
Blooms: Inconspicuous – grown for foliage
Light: Full sun, part sun.
Water: Rain is plenty. No summer water!
Where to find in P. Garden: The left bed has several clumps, which have seeded to other areas.
The Latin name nassa means "a basket with a narrow neck for catching fish," and tenuissima means “thin, fine or small.”

Its hair-like foliage moves with the slightest breeze, and it really contrasts well with architectural plants like Agaves and Aloes. Mexican Feather Grass has a tendency to self sow, so watch out – you’ll soon have more little mini-clumps coming up, though they’re easy to pull out if you don’t want more. Another way to propagate them is by dividing large clumps.

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