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Deer tongue grass

Deer tongue grass is a native grass with an exotic bamboo-like appearance.  This warm season, clumping grass tolerates dryness and infertile soils very well. It can be used for naturalizing in tough sites. 

"This species is native to the Chicago Region according to Swink and Wilhelm's Plants of the Chicago Region, with updates made according to current research."  

Botanical name:

Dichanthelium clandestinum (syn. Panicum clandestinum)

All Common Names:

Deer tongue grass

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Grass,
  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Chicago area,
  • Illinois,
  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Foundation,
  • Mixed border,
  • Patio/sidewalk

Size Range:

  • Large plant (more than 24 inches)

Light Exposure:

  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Sandy soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Wet sites

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Late spring,
  • Early summer,
  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall,
  • Mid fall,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Other

Shape or Form:

  • Upright

More Information:

Size and Form

Deer tongue grass will grow 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 feet tall.  Overall, it has an upright habit, but it can become floppy late in the season.  It is a warm season, clumping grass, although slow growth of rhizomes can lead to small colonies of this grass..

Plant Care

Best growth is obtained in light to medium shade.  The plant can tolerate full sun, but will often be shorter and lighter green in color.
It is often found in wet sites, but is also tolerant of dryness and infertile soils.

This is a warm season grass, so its most active growth occurs in summer.  It will remain standing in winter, but will be somewhat floppy.
It can be cut back until early spring, before new growth begins.  At that time, it can be cut down to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious pest problems.

Native geographic location and habitat

C-Value: 6

Native to much of the Eastern United States and Canada.  Found in a variety of habitats.

Leaf description

The alternate leaves clasp the stem, giving the plant a bamboo-like appearance.  Leaves are green and up to 10 inches long.  Foliage turns yellow-brown in autumn.

Flower description

The tiny flowers are produced on open, airy clusters called panicles.  The panicles can be from 4 to 7 inches tall.  Flowering occurs all summer, but the flowers produced earlier in the season are showier.  Flowers produced early are silvery and are wind-pollinated.  Flowers produced later in the season are often hidden from view and are self-pollinating

Fruit description

The small fruit (caryopsis or grains) form along the airy panicles that held the flowers. 



Location of Dichanthelium clandestinum (syn. Panicum clandestinum) (Deer tongue grass) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.