Agrostis exarata

spike bentgrass

Habit: Agrostis exarata is a charming bunch-forming perennial grass. It has fibrous nodes, and produces long stems with an upright growth habit. Still, some of the stems may bend at the base and stay closer to the ground, where it can root to form other plants. The foliage has interesting texture, presenting rough, deep furrowed, sometimes hairy leaf blades. Leaf shape is flat and linear, up to six inches long by half-inch wide. The inflorescence is a long and narrow panicle, lance-shaped and occasionally interrupted near the base. The panicle can measure up to 11 inches long, and it is tight with numerous spikelets which may cover the entire length of the flower stalk.

Ecology: this species is commonly found in wet meadows, tidal marshes, rocky beaches, and other moist, open grounds in general. It is widespread in Western North America, from northwestern Canada through southern California, and from the Pacific Coast east to the Great Plains. Agrostis exarata can grow from sea level to mid elevations.

Growing conditions: enjoys sun to partial shade and moist soils. It is able to tolerate a variety of soil types. Spike bentgrass varies greatly in height, size and texture, as well as color of the inflorescence. For example, it is possible to find specimen with both furrowed or smooth leaves, as well as slender plants with few-flowered panicles, or robust plants over 3 feet tall. Due to the amount of inconsistencies within the species, several subspecies and varieties have been proposed.

The scientific name exarata means “with embossed grooves, printed or engraved”, referring to the rough, grooved texture of the leaves.


Herbaceous Perennial
1-3.3 feet (0.3-1 m)
12 inches spread
USDA Zones:
3 to 10

Native Habitat

See All Native Plants