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What is Deschampsia?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 23 September 2016
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Deschampsia is a type of wild plant in the grass family of Poecea. Also known as tufted hair grass, there are up to 40 recognized species of Deschampsia. While hair grass thrives in wetlands, it can also survive in drier climates with ample amounts of water. Species of Deschampsia are perennial grasses that occur in a wide range of environments throughout the world. Having native species in most areas, hair grasses are also used as an ornamental plant in gardens because they tend to stay green all year around.

One of the most common species of hair grass is the Deschampsia elongata, or the slender hair grass. The slender hair grass can be found throughout most of North America, Chile, and Argentina. As a perennial herb and water-loving plant, the slender hair grass grows in a wide variety of habitats, including forest openings, woodlands, and grasslands. Furthermore, the D. elongata is often referred to an indicator species, marking defining traits or characteristics in a particular environment. For example, in Oregon the slender hair grass establishes Douglas-fir forests.

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Another popular species in the genus Deschampsia is the Northern Lights species. The Northern Lights are special because their leaves turn pink in cold weather. This plant can add both height and depth to gardens and are low maintenance, requiring only a normal amount of water and partial shade. Hair grasses grow in clumps to around 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 1 m) with a width of 1 foot (0.3 m). As a cool-season plant, the Northern Lights grow best in spring before temperatures exceed 75°F (24°C).

There is even a plant of the Deschampsia genus in the Antarctic. Deschampsia antarctica, or Antarctic hair grass, is one of two flowering plants native to Antarctica. As of 2010, warming in the region has increased germination significantly among the Antarctic hair grass. It has been found as far south as 55° latitude.

Due its hardy properties, certain species of hair grass are used in restorations and reconstruction projects. For example, the Deschampsia cespitosa is very salt tolerant, making it an ideal plant in projects in brackish waters. It has also been used in reclamation projects in high-altitude areas such as mines, ski slopes, and high elevation meadows. The use of the D. cespitosa helps to prevent erosion in wetland areas, as well as along stream banks as it provides a dense nesting foliage.

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