Purpletop Grass (Tridens flavus) is a warm-season ornamental bunchgrass that grows 3 to 5 feet tall and about 3 feet wide. As its name implies, it has very pretty purple seed heads that appear in the late summer and usually persist through November. When planted en masse, the fall show is nothing short of spectacular. In addition to its aesthetic qualities, in Florida, this grass is the caterpillar host plant for Zabulon Skippers, Broad-winged Skippers, Clouded Skippers, Crossline Skippers, Little Glassywings, and Common Wood-Nymphs. It is also a valuable seed source for many of the songbirds migrating through our area.
The plant can be found in much of the eastern United States from Maine south to Florida and west to eastern Nebraska and eastern Texas. It is a great colonizing grass with deep, fibrous roots that help control erosion. It does best in full sun and dry clay or loamy soils. Plant it with Purple Love Grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), which develops seed heads earlier in the season for a purple fest from mid-summer through late fall.
Please note: Because many of our native insects overwinter in this grass, if you’re tempted to tidy your garden, cut this back in Spring rather than the fall. Your butterflies will thank you!