Native Grasses, Sedges and Rushes and Forbs of ThunderCroft
Since the dawn of civilization, humans have had some form of ever growing dependence on the wide variety of plants called grasses, sedges, rushes and forbs. Scientists have identified over 10,000 different known species of these plants; however, due to the unique features of Virginia's Ridge and Valley Region, only 28 species are officially regognized by Viginia's Department of Conservation and Recreation as actual "native species." These "native species" have supported native wildlife by providing a source of food as well as shelter; however, as with most ecological niches worldwide, the Ridge and Valley Region of Virginia has slowly absorbed an influx of non-native species of both plants and wildlife, thus upsetting the natural cooperative balance of interdependent relationships. As part of our Meadow Restoration Ecology Program, we strive to return our natural open expanses of land to settings that are abundant with native grasses, sedges and rushes. In our information below, we reference all three; however, we collectively refer to all of them as, "our grasses."
Virginia Quail Recovery Initiative
The Special Relationship Between Native Pollinators and Our Grasses
As many of Virginia's pollinators are directly dependent upon native grasses as a pollen and nectar food source, we strive to balance our native grass offerings with the populations of insects currently residing at ThunderCroft. Below is a reference with links to individual species of Montgomery County, Virginia butterflies whose offspring directly depend on our native grasses as a primary food source.
The Special Relationship Between Songbirds, Small Game, Pollinators and Native Warm Season Grasses
At ThunderCroft, we recognize the delicate relationship between Native Warm Season Grasses and the lifecycles of many songbirds, small mammals and insect pollinators. These special kinds of grasses grow in large tall clumps and are relatively open near the surface of the ground. They range in size from 2 to 8 feet tall. Not only do their deep root systems help keep soil from eroding, their large seed heads provide a bounty of highly nutritious seeds for numerous animals and an excellent safe environment to forage and raise their young. A large portion of our is intimately dependent upon the plant species we encourage. Great care has been taken to remove non-native species such as Fescue and replace them with native species of bunch and prarie grasses. Here are some of the varieties we cultivate and the species that interact with them.
Plant Species of Interest at ThunderCroft
Schizachyrium scoparium, "Little Bluestem" or "Beard Grass": Larval host for "Dakota Skipper Butterfly"
Bouteloua curtipendula, "Sideoats Grama"
Elymus virginicus, "Virginia Wildrye"
Andropogon gerardi, "Big Bluestem" or "Turkeyfoot" (prarie grass)
Sorghastrum nutans, "Indiangrass" (bunch grass)
Panicum virgatum, "Switchgrass"
Sorghastrum nutans, "Indiangrass"
Schizachyrium scoparium, "Little Bluestem"
Andropogon gerardi, "Big Bluestem"
Panicum virgatum, "Switchgrass"
Butterfly Larval Food Source
Mason Bees, such as this one feeding on one of our wild grasses, often use dead hollowed out sturdy stems as ideal nesting sites
Combined with our other meadow plants, grasses make excellent food sources for many species of grasshoppers