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Needle Grass
Stipa cernua
About Needle Grass (Stipa cernua) Nurseries Show All Photos Nodding Needle Grass (Nassella cernua) is a native grass that grows in many parts of California, primarily in the Coast Ranges from Tehama County southward at elevations from sea level to 5,000 ft. It is fast growing and moderately long-lived. It grows in an upright form to a height of 3 feet, with active growth during the spring. Leaves are medium green and deciduous. There have been some taxonomic changes related to this genus (Needlegrass) over the years, and some sources may refer to it as Nasella. The Stipas generally have been a major component of California's native grasslands. In the garden it is best used in small patches between chaparral or sage scrub species and mixed with various perennial herbs and annuals.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
1.7 - 3.3 ft (0.5 - 1 m)

Max. Width
2 ft (0.6 m)



Growth Rate

Winter Deciduous

Flower Color

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Grasslands and openings in coastal sage scrub, chaparral or woodlands in coastal foothills and valleys

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
-21' - 5934'

Annual Precip. ?
6.0" - 58.5"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 2.54"

Coldest Month ?
34.6° F - 57.4° F

Hottest Month ?
61.9° F - 80.5° F

Humidity ?
0.34 vpd - 28.68 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerates a variety of soils

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0


Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 15° F

Sunset Zones ?
7*, 8, 9, 11, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Companion Plants
Use in the spaces between any chaparral shrubs or subshrubs, along with Milkweed (Asclepias sp.), California Thistle (Cirsium occidentale), Clarkia sp., Larkspur (Delphinium sp.), Lupine (Lupinus sp.), Beardtongue (Penstemon sp.), Phacelia sp., and with various geophytes such as native onions (Allium sp.), Mariposa Lily (Calochortus sp.), Blue Dicks (Dichelostemma capitatum), and many others

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Seldom Used

Max. Summer Water ?
1x/month, 2x/month
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Pest Control
It is important to keep non-native weeds from invading areas of Needlegrass

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: No treatment.

Common uses
Groundcovers, Deer Resistant

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Botanical Names
Nassella cernua

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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