Prairie Grasses in Late Fall

Prairie Grasses

By December, the flowers of herbaceous plants have all faded and the leaves of woody plants have fallen.  But the landscape is not barren: some may think this is the most beautiful time of year.  Why is that?  Prairie grasses come into prominence, creating stunning pictures.


Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) is one of the most versatile.



It dominates the Prairie Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden in September.


Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) takes on a copper tone by November.



More Little Bluestem at Morton Arboretum.


Grasses become even more dramatic when combined with rocks.  This is Prairie Dropseed at Geneva River Park.



A  terraced limestone wall is filled in with Prairie Dropseed at River Park in Geneva.


Again–River Park in Geneva.

My beautiful picture

This dramatic photo of Indian Grass (Sorghastrum nutans) and stone  steps, along with the following  5 photos were taken at Coffee Creek at Chesterton, Indiana many years ago .

The Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve is a 157-acre complex of wetlands, woodlands, and prairie.  More than 400 native plant species have been identified on the property.  The magnificent display of wildflowers from spring through fall is one of The Preserve’s most notable features.  Many common mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies make their homes here, and there is a diverse birdlife, including both nesting and migratory species.  Coffee Creek is one of the healthiest streams in the southern Lake Michigan watershed.  Salmon, trout, and many other fish swim in its waters.

The Preserve is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts.  A system of trails, including a three-mile loop around the perimeter, is popular with hikers, joggers, dog walkers, birders, and other nature lovers.

My beautiful picture

In addition to its natural bounty, Coffee Creek also boasts two outstanding outdoor venues for public and private events.  The Pavilion can be rented for picnics, family reunions, private and corporate parties, etc.


My beautiful picture

The Chesterton Amphitheater hosts municipal concerts and ceremonies, festivals, and weddings.

My beautiful picture

More grass and rock surrounding a patio.

My beautiful pictureA rock waterfall  has been added to  this picture.

My beautiful picture

Sepia, Burnt Sienna, Nutmeg, Copper, Brass, Tawny, Ochre, Cinnamon–How many colors do you see in here?


This look can  be adapted to houses, as well.  Prairie Dropseed edges flagstone walk and steps that climb a terraced hillside leading to June’s front door.


Can you create this kind of effect anywhere in your yard?  It adds beauty and interest summer, fall, and winter.

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6 Responses to Prairie Grasses in Late Fall

  1. Sue Harney December 2, 2016 at 3:55 pm #

    Bring on the rocks. What striking views with rocks and grasses. Thanks Pat.

  2. Suzanne Massion December 2, 2016 at 6:59 pm #

    I visit River Park in Geneva often to get inspiration for landscape paintings. Especially those beautiful grasses. Like Sue Harney, I love rocks and terraced areas. My farm neighbor, to the north and west, throws field stones in the fence line for me. He knows I love rocks. The freezing and thawing of the ground heaves them to the surface every winter. They are the bane of farming but my delight. The receding glacier left me treasures.

  3. Jason December 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm #

    Little Bluestem has fit well into my garden, but I think the Prairie Dropseed still needs filling in. Switchgrass also is a great addition, though the smaller cultivars are easier to fit in. I have a couple of Big Bluestem that have not yet achieved their normal size – I look forward to their maturing.

  4. Kathy Packard December 4, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

    What are the yellow flowers underneath the Prairie Dropseed in the first and Little Bluestem in the third photos? Thank you so much for your ever-inspiring blog, both text and photos.

  5. Pat Hollingsworth December 7, 2016 at 9:24 am #

    I recognize many of my favorite locations for viewing native plants, including that lovely CBG view I passed by daily while I worked there — lovely!!! Coffee Creek was new for me – thank you for introducing me!

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