Grazing North Texas – Purpletop Tridens

Purpletop colony. (Photo by Tony Dean)

By Tony Dean 

Purpletop tridens is a native, perennial, warm season bunchgrass that is found across all of Texas except the extreme western areas. It grows in most of the U.S. from the central plains to the East coast.

Purpletop is easily recognizable once it blooms due to the deep purple color of the seed head. It can grow from three to five feet tall with leaves up to two feet long that are rough to the touch on the leaf margin.

The purple seed head is open, pyramidal shaped, and up to 15 inches long. After maturity, the seed head gives off an oily residue, giving the plant a common name of greasegrass. It is also sometimes called redtop.

Purpletop is good grazing for livestock when it first greens up but becomes less palatable as it matures during summer months.
After frost, livestock again prefer to graze purpletop tridens.

Purpletop is most adapted to sandy to loamy soils and can be found as individual plants or in colonies. It prefers partial shade and is a relatively low user of water. It is somewhat tolerant to road salt, so in northern states it is often found in road ditches.

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