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Products > Lygeum spartum
Lygeum spartum - False Esparto Grass

[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Grass
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae) (Grasses)
Origin: Mediterranean (Europe)
Evergreen: Yes
Yellow/Chartreuse Foliage: Yes
Flower Color: Tan
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Height: 2-3 feet
Width: Spreading
Exposure: Full Sun
Seaside: Yes
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 10-15° F
Lygeum spartum (False Esparto Grass) - A spreading rhizomatous grass with vertically-inclined pale yellowish gray-green rush-like leaves that grow to 2-3 feet tall. In spring into summer appear the curious flowers of this grass which have 2 or 3 large single flower spikelets fused together at the base surrounded by many long hairs and are further enveloped by a pair of large pale-colored spathe-like bracts. This plant is naturally widespread throughout the Mediterranean from southern Italy and Crete west to the Iberian Pennisula and in North Africa where it is found on clay and chalky soils in arid climates from 400 to 3,200 feet in elevation, often higher than the similar more coastal Stipa tenacissima. Both are very tolerant of saline soils. This grass has been commonly called Esparto Grass but this name is more correctly used for Stipa tenacissima while the common names for Lygeum spartum are Albardín, Alvarde or False Esparto. The name Lygeum was first applied to this plant by Linnaeus from the Greek 'lygion', (switch) or 'lygizo', (to bend) for the plant's flexibility and use in mats, sails and ropes. Pliny (the Elder) in Natural History of Pliny Volume 4 Book XIX notes when referring to the use of spartum (Stipa tenacissima) that "there is a kind of spartum grown in Africa of a stunted nature and is quite useless for all practical purposes. It is found in one portion of the province of Carthage in Neared Spain, though not in every part of that; but wherever it is produced, the mountains are covered all over with it." This was interpreted to be Spartum Lygeum of Linnaeus, false esparto or alvarde. The specific epithet is from the Greek word 'sparton' for "rope" and this is translated back to Spanish as 'esparto'. Its extensive root system has been shown to play a significant role in preventing desertification by stabilizing the sand and is a valued source of forage and for making rope, baskets, shoes, and paper.  The information on this page is based on research conducted in our nursery library and from online sources as well as from observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery's garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We have also incorporated comments received from others and always appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have some additional information, particularly if this information is contrary to what we have written or includes additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing  Lygeum spartum.