click picture for larger version
Common Name: Needle-and-Thread Grass
Scientific Name: Stipa comata
Family: Grass Family (Poaceae)
Distribution: Widely distributed in western and central North America
Habitat: Wide amplitude, from deserts to mountain meadows, mostly on sandy or gravelly soils
Habit: Perennial bunchgrass
Foliage Color: Pale green
Leaves: long grass leaves, mostly at base
Flower Color: Greenish, ripening to golden
Flower Form: one-flowered spikelets at the tips of branches, fruits long-awned
Flowering Season: early summer, ripening by midsummer
Cultural Requirements: prefers full sun and coarse, well-drained soils. Fully cold-hardy. Drought-hardy, i.e., requires no supplemental water once established on the Wasatch Front
Culture: Seeds are usually not very dormant, but some lots respond to 2-4 weeks of moist chilling. Seeds should be planted point-down (awn end up) for container culture. They also come well in spring from late fall field seedings, as long as there isn't too much competition from other grasses.
Uses and Notes of Interest: This elegant bunchgrass looks best in massed plantings. The long-awned seedheads all hang down together in the wind and glisten beautifully in the sunlight, like silver-gold rain. The awns are the "threads" of needle-and-thread, while the slender, sharp-pointed brown one- seeded fruits are the "needles". These may be hand-stripped from the plants once the awns have lost their shine and begin to curl. The fruits and their awns tend to tangle into a brillo-like mass in the collecting bag, but with firm hand- rubbing the awns can be broken off. Be sure to wear leather gloves, as the "needles" can deliver a wicked stab.