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Purple Lovegrass


Common Name: Purple Lovegrass

Latin Name: Eragrostis spectabilis

[Pronounced: "air-ah-GRAH-stiss speck-TABB-ah-liss"]

Type of Plant: Native warm-season grass, a prairie tallgrass

Identification Helps: Purple lovegrass is a low (to 18"), finely-textured grass that is difficult to see until late summer or fall, when the foliage turns red-purple, as shown on the photos.

Several other grass species are similar, but this species has little tuffs of hair where the leaves attach to the stem.

Preferred Growing Conditions in the Wild: Purple lovegrass grows only in very sandy soils, usually in open conditions without shading or competition.

Preferred Soils: The species grows only in almost pure sand.

Seasons of Growth and Bloom: This grass is low and easy to overlook until late summer and autumn, when it takes on a reddish-purple hue. In winter, the color usually fades to beige.

Natural Distribution in Ohio: Purple lovegrass is found throughout the state in sand prairies, sandy savannas, and similar habitats.

Description and General Information: When found en masse, purple lovegrass is beautiful in autumn. The photos on the left illustrate purple lovegrass on a sand ridge at the NASA Plum Brook Station in Erie County.

Purple lovegrass would make a wonderful native species garden planting, but horticultural uses are restricted by the species' requirement of almost pure sand.

The genus, Eragrostis, means "love" -- Eros, or here Er, and "grass," -- agrostis. There is some belief that consumption of the tiny seeds of this grass can have some aphrodisiac properties. This, of course, is not a matter that prairie biologists generally have any competency, per se, in investigating.