Big Sacaton (Wrightii)

The Big Sacaton (Wrightii) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the summer . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the late summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Big Sacaton (Wrightii) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Big Sacaton (Wrightii) will reach up to 5.5 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Big Sacaton (Wrightii) generally appears in field collections and doesn't tend to be commercially available. It can be propagated by seed. It has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have medium vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -13°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Big sacaton may be used in pure stands or as part of a rangeland seeding mix for highly alkaline soils. It is useful for revegetating saline soils throughout the Southwest. It performs well as a grass hedge terrace or windstrip for erosion control. It helps stabilize watershed structures, stream banks and flood plain areas. Big sacaton is also useful for wildlife cover.

General Characteristics

Big sacaton (Sporobolus wrightii) is a native, warm-season grass that forms dense clumps. It is a coarse, upright bunch grass that can grow from 3 to 8 feet tall. Leaves are anywhere from 1 to 2½ inches wide and up to 1 foot long. The pale flowers of big sacaton form in stiff, upright clusters 1 to 2 feet long.

Required Growing Conditions

Big sacaton grows primarily on heavier soils in lowland or wetland sites. It is tolerant of highly alkaline and saline soil, and can tolerate poorly drained soils and seasonally flooded areas. The plant is also found on open areas such as rocky slopes, plateaus, and mesas.

Big sacaton is distributed throughout the Southwest.

Cultivation and Care

Seedbed preparation should begin well in advance of planting. Planting can be scheduled for early spring or where there is minimal cool-season weeds, big sacaton can also be planted in the fall.Establish a clean, weed-free seedbed by either tillage or herbicides. Prior to planting, the site should be firm and have accumulated soil moisture.Big sacaton seed can be drilled or broadcast. Seed should be planted at 1/8 to 1/4 inch depth. It is better to plant too shallow than too deep. A seeding rate of 1/2 to 1 pound of pure live seed per acre is recommended. Plants can also be grown in small paper containers and then transplanted for establishment of grass hedges and wind barriers. On saline soils, weed-free mulch can be used to improve establishment. Establishment is highly dependent on good rainfall or irrigation.Soil analysis should be performed prior to planting to determine salinity levels and necessary levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen should not be applied until the stand is established. Evaluate the stand after 60 days. If 1 plant per square foot is present than the planting has been successful.

General Upkeep and Control

Big sacaton should not be grazed the first year. After stands are established, either continuous or rotational grazing can be used. It is recommended that a minimum 12-inch stubble height be maintained under continuous grazing. For rotational grazing, forage height should be utilized between 8 to 16 inches. Big sacaton will benefit from an annual mowing at an 18-24 inch height when used as a grass hedge or wind barrier.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) The Falfurrias Germplasm release of big sacaton was chosen because of its ability to produce abundant forage, especially on droughty, alkaline and saline sites. It also produces nutritious, green forage throughout the winter months in south Texas. This selected collection came from Falfurrias, TX. It was evaluated at both the Kika de la Garza Plant Materials Center and the Knox City Plant Materials Center.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Field Collections Only
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Late Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 5.5
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -13
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Slow
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 5.6–8 pH
Precipitation Range 5–5 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 20
Minimum Frost-Free Days 160 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance High
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability Medium
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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