Deertongue (Clandestinum)

The Deertongue (Clandestinum) 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 early summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Deertongue (Clandestinum) has a long life span relative to most other plant species and a slow growth rate. At maturity, the typical Deertongue (Clandestinum) will reach up to 2 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Deertongue (Clandestinum) 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 -33°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

The major use of deertongue is for revegetating disturbed areas where site conditions limit the use of other species. It is tolerant of sites with: (1) a pH as low as 3.8, (2) aluminum concentration which limits growth of other species, and (3) light textured soil which is droughty and infertile. These tolerances allow deertongue to excel when revegetating acid coal and other surface mine spoils, and sandy infertile disturbed areas.

General Characteristics

Deertongue is a perennial, warm season grass native to the Eastern United States and Southeastern Canada. The midsummer growth normally reaches a height of one to three feet. The leaf sheath and stem are hairy. Leaves are one-half to one and one-quarter inches wide and four to eight inches long. In autumn culms form a very leafy rosette, four to six inches in height. Deertongue produces short, strong rhizomes. Two seed crops are produced annually: an early crop on an open terminal panicle and a later crop in a panicle enclosed in the swollen leaf sheath. The second crop, produced in the enclosed panicle, produces an abundance of seed. Deertongue has about 400,000 seeds per pound. Deertongue lodges over winter and forms a mat of vegetative cover. Some of the stems break off and are carried away by wind or water. Much of the seed is retained in the leaf sheaths of the old stems.

Required Growing Conditions

The natural distribution is Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Maine to Kansas, south to northern Florida and Texas. Deertongue is widely scattered throughout this area volunteering onto denuded sites. It grows well on non-cultivated soil. Because of its tolerance to low pH, high concentrations of aluminum, and droughty infertile conditions, it is commonly found to volunteer on such sites.

Cultivation and Care

The type of sites where deertongue is recommended and its seed dormancy characteristics influence the method and timing of establishment. Deertongue should be seeded as early as possible in the spring. Seed dormancy is easily overcome when deertongue is planted during cool weather, so that natural stratification in the soil will occur. If the site conditions restrict early spring planting, it is advisable to sow seed in the late fall or early winter, while dormant.On sites where conventional farm equipment can operate, prepare seedbed as normal for a pasture planting. Use a grain or grass drill; do not place seed deeper than one inch. In sand and gravel pits, the method of choice is to broadcast, then 'track' the seed with lime and fertilizer in with a bulldozer. Hydroseed steep or rough areas, but expect this method to result in less success than those outlined above. Expect slow establishment of seedings.Mulching is beneficial for seedling establishment and erosion control, except in sand and gravel pits. Two tons of straw or hay tacked down is the most desirable method. Where this is not possible, wood fiber mulch should be used at 1,500 pounds per acre.Deertongue is most often planted in mixtures with other warm season grasses such as switchgrass with the total rate of 12-15 pounds per acre. Typically, deertongue does not exceed 3 pounds of the per-acre mix.

General Upkeep and Control

In lieu of a soil test, two tons of lime and 300 to 400 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per acre are suggested for deertongue plantings on critical areas. Where conditions permit, these materials should be worked into the soil surface during site preparation. Additional fertilizer applications may be needed after a stand has emerged in order to develop a vigorous plant cover. Once good cover has developed, plant vigor will be maintained without additional fertilizer treatments. It can be mowed (1-2 times per year) if necessary to improve appearance.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) ‘Tioga’ (northeast US) is the only variety of deertongue. It was developed by the Big Flats Plant Materials Center and released for commercial production in 1975. Seed is available from commercial sources.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Slow
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring, Summer
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Long
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 2
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Low
Cold Stratification Required Yes
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 16
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 4–7.5 pH
Precipitation Range 32–32 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 130 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Low
CaCO3 Tolerance Low
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

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