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2012-01-19

-- In the Wild -- Hairy tridens - just a simple country grass

By Judith Pannebaker Photo by Lynn Post

The low-growing grass, Hairy tridens - aka hairy erioneuron, hairy woolygrass and the more formal, Erioneuron pilosum - can be found throughout Texas except for the state's most eastern region.

It is particularly abundant in far West Texas, the Edwards Plateau and the South Texas Plains. Additionally, this short grass has particularly adapted itself to thrive on dry plains and rocky hills, open rangelands, pastures and, not surprisingly, generally poorer areas.

Hairy tridens also grows in well-drained limestone; dry gravelly, sandy or rocky soil; sand; and caliche.

Despite the plant's fibrous root system, the tufts tend to pull up easily.

The perennial grass does well in low rainfall areas, growing from four-to 12-inches high. Its linear blades are thick, narrow and flat, and , as an identifier, sport a pointed tip and thick white margin. Small hairs are found on the leaves.

The grass's not unattractive brown blooms are evident from April through October.

Giving hairy tridens a margin of value, it retards soil erosion in dry regions that are also subject to occasional heavy rains. The grass also offers seeds for granivorous birds and nesting material for small mammals. Although it invades overgrazed areas, Hairy tridens provides poor forage and is considered of little value to livestock and wildlife.

On the other hand, the conspicuous flowers and interesting foliage of hairy tridens make the grass an attractive ornamental. With its lovely fluffy inflorescence, the low-tufted hairy tridens works well in a short-grass prairie garden, providing a good matrix in which to establish wildflowers.

Winecup, four-nerve daisy and blue-eyed grass combine well in plantings with hairy tridens because the grass' texture offers an interesting contrast to the flowers. Hairy tridens' affinity for butterflies also makes it a welcome addition to a xerioscaped garden.

It tolerates low moisture, hot sun and is both drought and deer resistant.

Hairy tridens is propagated from seeds that are readily available commercially.

(Sources: essmextension.tamu.edu, www.wildflower.org, www.kswildflower.org, www.bamertseed.com, www.soilcropandmore.info)