A large group of silver grass against a clear blue sky.
Stable

Chinese Silver Grass

Miscanthus sinensis
  • Division: Magnoliophyta (flowering plants)
  • Class: Liliopsida (monocotyledons)
  • Order: Poales (true grasses)
  • Family: Poaceae (true grasses)
  • Genus: Miscanthus
  • Species: sinensis

OVERVIEW

This tall, graceful grass sways elegantly in a breeze. It's native to many regions of temperate and tropical Asia—not just China. In the US, several cultivars are popular for use as focal plants or screens. It's a member of the Poaceae family—the true grasses.

CHARACTERISTICS

Chinese silver grass grows in an enormous bunch, and it also spreads with underground stems called rhizomes. Some plants reach heights of 12 feet (3.7 meters) or more, although many cultivars are quite a bit smaller. The color of its foliage and leaves vary depending on the cultivar. Feathery purplish or coppery blooms, which grow on a long spike and look somewhat like corn tassels, fade to silver late in the season.

CULTIVATION

Chinese silver grass has become an invasive species in parts of the US, including California and many states of the Southeast. It can be found growing in large clumps, making it harder for native grasses and other plants to survive. Fortunately, some of the ornamental cultivars are sterile, so savvy gardeners can grow this lovely grass without fear of contributing to habitat loss. For other cultivars, cutting off the developing seed heads prevents seeds from developing and dispersing to where they don't belong. Still, rhizomes may spread this grass into places you don't want it.

Save Wildlife. Help us keep this and other species from disappearing forever.

THATCH

In Japan, the long, stiff culms of this grass have long been used to make thatched roofs.

FUEL?

Giant miscanthus is a sterile hybrid of a Miscanthus sinensis and M. sacchariflorus, which can be grown for biofuel.

BY ANY OTHER NAME

Miscanthus sinensis goes by many different names, including eulalia grass, maiden grass, maidenhair grass, porcupine grass, and susuki grass. One cultivar is known as zebra grass because of its cream-colored horizontal stripes.

AT THE SAFARI PARK

Look for Chinese silver grass at Tiger Trail.

DISCOVER WILDLIFE

More Animals & Plants from San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park