Danthonia spicata, also known as Poverty Grass or Curly Oat Grass, is a native cool season perennial turft-forming short grass. It grows well on dry, rocky, poor soils and tolerates full sun or partial shade while only growing to about 6″ tall. The basal leaves remain for several years, usually becoming dry, brown, and curly. Hikers frequently see Poverty Grass growing on the thin, rocky soils of dry upland Ozark woods.
Livestock prefer the young green blades in early spring and summer. It is much less palatable by midsummer.
Elk find it palatable and it provides fair cover value for small mammals and small nongame birds.
Danthonia spicata has potential as a low, interesting native accent or groundcover (if planted in groups) in rock gardens where it will not be overshadowed or crowded by other plants. It does well in poor and rocky soil but will decline if shaded by taller plants.
Curly Oat grass is a characteristic plant of Missouri’s dry upland woods. It requires relatively open habitats and cannot compete with taller vegetation crowding around it. With its fibrous roots, poverty grass helps to stabilize soils in its dry, rocky hilltop habitats, preventing erosion.
Videos About Native Plants
To learn more about native plants, check out our videos.