Alkali Sacaton (Airoides)

The Alkali Sacaton (Airoides) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the spring and summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the mid summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Alkali Sacaton (Airoides) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Alkali Sacaton (Airoides) will reach up to 3 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Alkali Sacaton (Airoides) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Ethnobotanic: The Hopi Indians use the seeds in times of famine (Whiting 1939). They were ground into flour, eaten dry or made into a mush.

Wildlife: Alkali sacaton’s abundant herbage is eaten by cattle, sheep, and horses (Hitchock 1951). This species is used as a good forage or grazing grass in lowland and in alkali regions (Gates 1937).

General Characteristics

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Alkali sacaton is a tough perennial two to three and a half feet tall, growing in large bunches. The culms are erect to spreading and range in height from 50 to 100 centimeters tall. The blades are elongate, flat, soon becoming involute, and usually less that four millimeters wide (Hitchcock 1951).

Required Growing Conditions

Alkali sacaton ranges from South Dakota to Washington, south to Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Mexico (Steyermark 1963). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Adaptation Alkali sacaton grows on dry to moist sites with sand or gravelly soil. This species is often found growing on alkaline flats, prairies, and sandy plateaus. It is common along drainage in desert and semi-desert areas.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation by Seed: Alkali sacaton seeds should be sown in the spring in a greenhouse. Cover the seeds with a light layer of the growing media. Germination for this species should take place within two weeks. When seedlings are large enough to handle, plant them directly into their permanent positions in the summer.

Large divisions can be planted directly into their permanent positions. However, smaller divisions should be placed in individual pots in a cold frame, planting them when they are well established in the summer.

General Upkeep and Control

Once Sporobolus airoides plants are well established little maintenance is required. It is best that the stands of this species is grazed in the spring and summer when growth is active. SPAL

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Mid Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 3
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance Medium
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Moderate
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6.6–9 pH
Precipitation Range 5–5 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 150 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance High
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Low
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA