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The Fall Color of River Oats

River Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium)

River oats is abundant along the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.

River oats is abundant along the Saluda River in Columbia, SC.
Karen E Jackson, ©2021, Clemson University

River oats takes on a beautiful golden hue during the fall and, with certain site conditions, can also turn slightly purple in color.

River oats takes on a beautiful golden hue during the fall and, with certain site conditions, can also turn slightly purple in color.
Karen E Jackson, ©2021, Clemson University

One of my favorite native plants in South Carolina isn’t a typical spring emergent full of bright colors; it’s a species that starts to turn heads as we head into the cooler months. Chasmanthium latifolium, also known as river oats, turns a beautiful bronze in my favorite season, fall, and is found in an area I’m passionate about protecting streamside riparian areas. Also known as sea oats or fish-on-a-pole, river oats is a perennial grass that performs best in wet soil and can persist in shaded areas. You can identify river oats by its flat seed heads that provide birds and mammals with food and serve as a host plant for butterflies. River oats is vibrant green during the spring and summer, eventually transforming to a beautiful coppery-yellow in the fall. The seed heads twist and turn in the wind, which adds beauty and appeal to this native. Another benefit of river oats is the stabilization it can provide to riparian or streamside areas along streams, rivers, and ponds. River oats spread through rhizomes, which prevents erosion and the deposition of sediment into our waterways. Interested in native plants that can help protect streams and rivers in South Carolina? Check out Clemson’s new Stream Bank Repair program.

If this document didn’t answer your questions, please contact HGIC at hgic@clemson.edu or 1-888-656-9988.

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