Before the prairie was plowed, the grasses there could grow to be as tall as a horse. Only one of them is in the running for the tallest grass, though. Read on to find out the tallest grass in the world.
The Tallest Grass in the World
Bamboo is a member of the grass family. A type of bamboo was measured as 137.9 feet tall, making it the tallest grass in the world. The large varieties of bamboo can grow to have a diameter of one foot. Bamboo grows on every continent except Europe and Antarctica.
There are other varieties of grass that get very tall. According to Canavan et. al, of the more than 11,000 species of grass, 929 (about 8.6%) grow more than 2 meters tall and can support themselves. These are called tall-statured grasses (TSG). While bamboo is clearly the tallest grass, it is harder to decide on the other four tallest types of grass because there are many grasses that are of similar height. Here are our nominations for the five tallest types of grass.
5) Big Bluestem [Andropogon gerardii]
This grass is native to the North American prairies. It sometimes grows six to ten feet tall, depending on who you ask. It is called bluestem because the leaves and stems are a blue-green color. This native grass provides shelter for 24 species of birds. It used to be prevalent throughout the prairie, but habitat loss has left it much less common. Big Bluestem is often planted to control soil erosion on the prairie and provide habitat for birds, especially quail. Cattle love it, but big bluestem cannot take constant pressure from cattle. It evolved to tolerate the grazing of buffalo, who ate it and moved on.
4) Pampas Grasses (Cortederia spp.)
Pampas grass grows to be ten feet tall and six feet wide. Pampas grass is native to South America, including the Pampas region. It has become an invasive species across North America. It grows in thick thickets along roads or other disturbed ground. When it does this, it crowds out native species. The leaves of the pampas grass are very sharp and physically harm birds that land on it. People have to wear gloves to handle it without getting cut, too.
3) Elephant Grass (Pennisetum purpureum)
This grass is also called Napier grass. Elephant grass grows to be around nine to 20 feet tall. It is originally from Africa and is found in swamps and bottomlands. In Africa, it is a very important fodder. Elephants and other herbivores eat it. Farmers cut it to make hay to feed their cattle and buffalo. Elephant grass grows up to three feet across very quickly and can be harvested multiple times a year. It was originally introduced to Florida as cattle forage. It now hinders flood control by growing in dense stands in drainage ditches.
2) Giant Reed (Arundo Donax L.)
Giant reed usually grows 12 to 16 feet high but can reach over 20 feet. The reeds resemble bamboo and are ¼ to 2 inches thick. Although it has flowers, they do not produce seeds. It reproduces with rhizomes and when pieces of it break off in floods. A giant reed plant can grow from a rhizome piece only an inch long. Giant reed may have originated in Asia and around the Mediterranean. It is now present on all continents but Antarctica. It has naturalized in California and Texas and is considered so invasive it is illegal to plant it in California.
1) Dragon Bamboo (Dendrocalamus giganteus)
Dragon bamboo is the tallest grass in the world. The tallest dragon bamboo plant measured 137.9 feet tall and was grown in Arunachal Pradesh, India. It usually grows 75-90 feet but if the conditions are ripe, it grows to be over 100 feet. The soil must be rich, the air humid, and enough water must fall to keep the soil moist all the time for it to grow this tall. Dragon bamboo is widely used as a construction material in its natural range.
The tallest grass in the world is dragon bamboo. The world record was 137.9 feet in India. The diameter of dragon bamboo can be as much as a foot. The giant reed is the next tallest grass at up to 20 feet tall. Interestingly enough, the control strategy for both these types of grass is to cut the plant to the ground and then mow over any sprouts that come up. You would have to mow very frequently, since bamboo can grow a meter a day.