FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Andropogon gyrans is a clump forming perennial grass that grows in narrow upright tufts. In late summer blue green leaves are topped with silvery panicles. Foliage turns reddish to a lovely coppery color in fall and winter. On late winter afternoons, a stand of Elliott’s Beard Grass is quite a spectacle with glowing orange foliage and silvery hairs that refract the sunlight. This adaptable grass prospers in sunny sites with moist or dry, disturbed or poor infertile soils.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: This species occurs from New Jersey to Florida and west to Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas.
Andropogon gyrans is indigenous to abandoned fields, dry meadows, pine flatwoods, wet pine savannas, shrubby wet prairies, open cypress swamps, open woods, wood margins, sandhills, glades, seepage slopes, rock outcrops, dune swales and barrens.
Plants are hardy from USDA Zones 6-10.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Andropogon gyrans is a slender diminutive rhizomatous grass with an upright habit and dense fibrous roots.
Leaves are linear with a bluish patina. In autumn foliage turns reddish and then maintains a bronzy orange color through much of the winter.
In late summer and autumn plants are topped by panicles of dense silvery racemes. The panicles are composed of florets with stiff bristly awns that are twisted or bent at the base.
The inflorescences are surrounded by large inflated leaf-like spathes or sheaths. The spathes are canoe shaped and copper colored.
The panicles mature into fluffy plumed seedheads that peek from beneath the unique orange tinted spathes.
Plants grow 2-3’ or taller with 2-3’ spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Andropogon gyrans thrives in sunny sites with acidic dry, moist or wet soil.
This grass tolerates drought, part sun, alkaline pH, infertile soils, deep sands, sandy loam, gravelly, clay or wet peaty soils. Plants persevere through controlled burns and seasonal flooding.
This species needs little maintenance except to be cut or burned to the ground in late winter.
Foliage is high in protein and is often grazed by livestock.
LANDSCAPE USES: This is a useful grass for Erosion Control, dry Meadows or Wildlife Gardens. Andropogon gyrans provides Fall Color, Winter Interest and Showy Flowers due to the inflated spathes. Plants are appropriate for Water Wise Landscapes, Prairie Gardens, Roadsides and Restoration Projects.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Try pairing with Asclepias tuberosa, Aster ericoides, Liatris spicata, Rudbeckia subtomentosa and Vernonia glauca.
Schizachyrium scoparium and Andropogon virginicus are similar in appearance and cultural needs and can be substituted if needed.
TRIVIA: Andropogon gyrans is best differentiated from its look-alike cousins when in flower or fruit. Florets have bent or twisted awns and inflorescences that are enveloped by unique inflated intense orangey sheaths. The very similar A. virginicus has straight awns or bristles on the spikelets, yellowish color at the base of the stem and soft coppery color on mature plants. Schizachyrium scoparium, has twisted or bent awns, lavender color at the stem base and rusty color with purple highlights on mature plants.
This species is generally not found in large numbers. It is often scattered in mixed stands with the more prolific Andropogon virginicus.
Foliage provides cover and nesting material for Quail and other birds. Songbirds eat the seed.
Andropogon gyrans is sometimes known as A. elliottii.
This plant is a No Advance Order plant, which means it is only available to order when the plant appears on our Availability and must be shipped within 2 weeks of ordering. We are more than happy to add you to a list to contact you when the plants become available. We cannot offer approximate dates of when the plants will be available next.