Species Selection: Native Grasses

03-01-2016 in Green Farmstead Partner

There are many options to consider as you design a windbreak. First, consider your goals for a new tree planting. Native grasses can be a good option for certain situations and different areas on livestock farms.

If native grasses are something that interest you, below is an excerpt and list of suggestions from “A Guide for Installing Vegetative Environmental Buffers,” written by Trees Forever. (Note: the guide is a PDF download.)

Prairie grasses and forbs

Grasses and wildflowers (forbs) were the predominate groundcover for the state of Iowa pre-European settlement. They are deep-rooted plants that helped build our world-renowned topsoil. Listed below are a few species of both grasses and wildflowers that you may want to consider in your plantings. Most are less than 3 feet tall. Several that are taller are listed because of their visual appeal. Use these plants in large areas adjacent to mowed turf or in front of windbreaks.

Recommended prairie plants



  • Little Bluestem/Schizachyrium scoparium
  • Prairie Dropseed/Sporobolus heterolepis
  • Sideoats Gramma/Bouteloua curtipendula
  • Junegrass/Koeleria macrantha
  • Sedges for wet soils/Carex species


Wildflowers (forbs)

  • Nodding Pink Onion/Allium cernuum
  • Butterflyweed/Asclepias tuberosa
  • Smooth Aster/Aster laevis
  • Canada Milk Vetch/Astragalus canadensis
  • Lanceleaf Coreopsis/Coreopsis lanceolata
  • White Prairie Clover/Dalea candida
  • Purple Prairie Clover/Dalea purpurea
  • Shootingstar/Dodecatheon meadia
  • Purple Conefl ower/Echinacea purpurea
  • Pale Purple Conefl ower/Echinacea pallida
  • Yellow Conefl ower/Ratibida pinnata
  • Prairie Blazingstar/Liatris pycnostachya
  • Wild Quinine/Parthenium integrifolium
  • Smooth Penstemon/Penstemon digitalis
  • Orange Conefl ower/Rudbeckia fulgida
  • Black Eyed Susan/Rudbeckia hirta
  • Ohio Spiderwort/Tradescantia ohiensis
  • Golden Alexanders/Zizia aurea

To develop a plan specific to your farm, please contact one of the landscapers participating in the program.

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