A variety of natural grasses thrive in Wyoming, with many offering great solutions for recently disturbed sites that need protection from erosion. Wyoming features a variety of soil types, from dry, alkaline areas to wet, moist meadows and riparian areas. Some grasses work well in wetlands such as soggy meadows and along creeks and streams, while others thrive in dry soils or in the woodland areas.
Spike Bentgrass (Agrostis exarata)
Also known as spike red top, spike bentgrass grows well in areas such as the Wyoming Basin and the Rocky Mountains. The grass tends to grow near woodlands consisting of aspens, pinyon-junipers and ponderosa pines. It also grows in meadows and near wetlands, preferring moist, open areas. A perennial bunchgrass, spike bentgrass grows up to 5 feet in height with blades up to 8 inches long. From June to August, the plant flowers with seeds ripening and dispersing in August and September. The seeds also help colonize disturbed sites. Plant the grass in full sun, preferably in moist soil although it will grow in dryer areas.
Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
Big Bluestem grows naturally in tall-grass prairie and open woods habitats. The perennial grass makes a great screen or hedge. Big bluestem grows up to 80 inches tall with blue-green leaves. In August and September, the grass features three-pronged flowers. Plant big bluestem grass in full sun to part shade in moist, well-drained soil. Once the grass establishes itself, it becomes more drought-tolerant. Until then, water the grass every two weeks.
Water Sedge (Carex aquatilis)
As its name implies, water sedge grows in clumps next to wetlands or in shallow water where it grows up to 20 inches tall. The perennial grass spreads underground through thick clumps of short, scaly rhizomes that branch out to produce more plants. The rhizomes create a dense patch of grass containing 11,000 to 22,000 shoots per square foot. The dense stand of grass helps stabilize soils and streambanks to prevent erosion. The leaves of water sedge grow almost as long as the plant is tall, with the seed heads consisting of several spikes on a long stem. Plant water sedge along riparian areas that contain water in early June and that remain moist in the root zone the rest of the year.
Western Wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii)
Western wheatgrass makes an excellent choice for erosion control on the plains thanks to its spreading rhizomes. The perennial grass also works well in the reclamation of mining areas. The grass provides good foraging material for livestock. Western wheatgrass grows up to 3 feet in height with 2- to 6-inch long seed spikes that mature in August. Plant wheatgrass in full to partially sunny areas in heavier, well-drained soils where the plants get at least 10 inches of precipitation each year.