FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #2 – Bottlebrush Grass (Elymus hystrix)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Photo by epa.gov

Flowers: None

Height: 36-60” (100 to 150 cm)

Width: 16-60” (40 to 150 cm)

Light: Full Sun to Part Sun

One of the most unusual grasses we have at the Fletcher Wildlife Garden, Bottlebrush distinguishes itself with remarkable awns that poke out at almost a 90º angle to its stem. In the morning dew, we find it photographs magically.

Aptly named with a head that looks like a bottle brush, its scientific name is equally apropos whereby ‘hystrix’ means hedgehog. This spiky head is nonetheless very airy in appearance, and its delicacy is nicely contrasted with bushier flowers or other grasses.

Remarkable for its ability to tolerate full sun to filtered light conditions, Bottlebrush can grow in dry to slightly moist soils. In the Backyard Garden, we have it growing by the frog pond and in the central grasses bed.

Like most grasses, Bottlebrush can spread through seed and roots, though we do not find it spreads quickly. To fill in a larger area would require planting several plants and time. If you have a grass garden, Bottlebrush would be best planted in the centre, as most of its height is not derived from leaves but its stem and seed heads, the latter not obstructing visually anything behind.

Photo by plantsmen.com

Bottlebrush is a grass found in woodland habitats, so could be included in a woodland garden planting where it receives slightly more light. However, it will grow larger and more quickly in full sun.

After the first snows, this is one grass that remains aesthetically pleasing to observe as its form remains – that is, when there are any seeds not eaten or fallen!

Bottlebrush is the larval host for the Northern Pearly Eye butterfly.

Looking for an intriguing new addition to your garden but tired of the usual big leaf green? Have a rock garden that need a bit of height near the back? Give Bottlebrush a try! Like all the featured top ten plants, we have some for sale at this year’s fundraising plant sale on 2 June, from 9:30 until 12:30.

Read about our other top ten:

#3- Great Lobelia

#4- Spreading Dogbane

#5- Bigleaf Aster

#6 – Yarrow

#7 – Lanceleaf Coreopsis

#8 – Blue Flag Iris

#9 – Wild Columbine

#10 – Obedient Plant



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