Indian Woodoats (Latifolium)

The Indian Woodoats (Latifolium) 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 . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until fall. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Indian Woodoats (Latifolium) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a moderate growth rate. At maturity, the typical Indian Woodoats (Latifolium) will reach up to 4.6 feet high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Indian Woodoats (Latifolium) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by bare root, 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 -33°F. has medium tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Chasmanthium latifolium is best known for its ornamental uses. It is a desirable ornamental grass because of its flower color, drought, moisture, salt and shade tolerance. It is popular for its uses as cut flowers and for groundcover in partial or full shade. The flower heads may be cut and dried while the plant is green or when it has fully matured to its natural copper-brownish color. The plant persists through winter or until snow weighs it down. The seeds have been noted as a source of food for birds and the leaves are a host plant for Linda’s Roadside Skipper (Amblyscirtes linda), a butterfly native to Oklahoma. Cattle will graze this species.

General Characteristics

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Chasmanthium latifolium (previously in the Uniola genus and commonly called broadleaf uniola) is a native, rhizomatous perennial often found in small colonies. The leaf shape and size are similar to many of the larger species of panic (Panicum species) grasses. The height of this grass and the inflorescence (seed cluster) somewhat resemble domestic oats; thus, the common name “wood, creek, or sea oats.” The weight of the seed heads causes the inflorescence to droop.

Stems are glabrous, relaxed and can reach heights of 1.5 m. Striated and glabrous leaves are found along the stem up to the base of the panicle. The leaves are broad (0.8 to 2.0 cm) and 10-20 cm long. Blade sheaths are small and glabrous. Panicles are open and drooping with relaxed branching. Spikelets have 9-26 florets and are broad and flattened. They range in lengths of 1.5-4 cm and widths of 1-2 cm. Glumes and lemmas overlap; however, the glumes are smaller than the lemmas. The glumes are 7-9 nerved, keels rough to the touch, and range in lengths of 5-8 mm. The lemmas are 9-15 nerved, keels rough to the touch, and range in lengths of 8-13mm. Paleas are 6-10 mm long with thin and dry margins. Caryopsis is flat, oval in shape and range in lengths of 4-5 mm.

Required Growing Conditions

Known from Arizona to Florida and Michigan to New Jersey. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

Cultivation and Care

Propagation can be accomplished by allowing the seeds to mature and fall naturally or by plant division.

Chasmanthium latifolium is widely used in gardens throughout the United States. They seed and spread readily if the spikelets are not removed before the seeds mature. It should be fertilized once a year, preferably with a slow release 3-1-2 ratio. Since it may take up to three years for the plant to reach its optimum growth, new plantings should be spaced about 2 feet apart. The new plants should be given a sufficient amount of water throughout the first growing season. One inch of water per week is recommended, perhaps more during the dry, hot days of summer. Mulch before the winter and mow the grass in the early spring.

Adaptation: It inhabits areas along streams and water banks, shaded slopes and bottomland hardwoods. It flowers from June to October and is found in hardiness zones 4-10. In Texas, this species is very common on loamy, terrace soils adjacent to creeks, bayous and rivers in eastern Texas, particularly under a hardwood forest canopy. It becomes less common westward, although it is found under favorable conditions in the Edwards Plateau, Rio Grande Plains, and Southern Rolling Plains. It is quite common in river bottoms of the Western Gulf Coast Prairie. An abundance of Chasmanthium latifolium is usually a good indicator of a Class I or II soil; though, it will grow on wet natured clayey soils. It is never found on droughty sites. Some of the literature suggests that it is found in marshes and mud flats. However, stress appears to limit the colonies to 1-3 plants on wet sites, rather than the 10-30 plant colonies commonly found on better-drained sites.

General: There are 5-6 species of Chasmanthium in the U.S. and three in Texas. All are generally associated with forested ecosystems, but none resemble Chasmanthium latifolium. A similar species with regards to shade tolerance and vegetative growth habits, is savanna panic grass (Phanopyrum gymnocarpon). Older references refer to this plant as Panicum gymnocarpon. Phanopyrum occurs on very wet (ponded) sites and the inflorescence is completely different. Virginia wildrye (Elymus virginicus) in east Texas and Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis) further west, commonly occupies similar forested sites but the seed head remains upright and the leaves of wildrye are clustered much more towards the base.


In 2005, this species was considered threatened in Michigan.

General Upkeep and Control

Indian seaoats prefers a rich well-drained soil and partial shade, approximately six hours of sun each day. If spikelets are not removed before they mature, they propagate rapidly by seed. Indian seaoats have no known diseases associated with it.

Plant Basics
Growth Rate Moderate
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Spring
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Rhizomatous
Drought Tolerance Medium
Shade Tolerance Tolerant
Height When Mature 4.6
Vegetative Spread Moderate
Flower Color Green
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Fall
Seed Spread Rate Moderate
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Bare Root, Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -33
Soil Depth for Roots 10
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 5–7 pH
Precipitation Range 24–24 inches/yr
Planting Density 3400–11000 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 10
Minimum Frost-Free Days 160 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance None
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