Plant of the Week: Japanese forest grass

As we celebrate and admire the winter structure and texture as the garden design intended, we notice how plants quietly fall, topple, and slouch under the weight of snow or the wear of cold wind. For some plants, it is in their habit to do so gracefully. For others, it's a process of breakage and disintegration. The contrast between the two provides each garden with a different narrative.

One of the most elegant drooping plants in our gardens is Hakonechloa macra, a perennial grass prized for its cascading effect. It's often planted on slopes to maximize this allure, and it typically produces flowers in July and August and holds the seedheads into the fall. While neither the flowers nor seedheads are as eye-catching as the foliage, the added texture and visual interruption of the leaves intensifies the flowing appearance.

The common names, Japanese forest grass and Hakone grass, both refer to its origins in central Japan's woodlands, including those on Mt. Hakone. Having adapted to moist forests, it prefers damp soils high in organic matter. It tolerates air pollution fairly well, and can even grow under black walnut, a tree known for allelopathy - a process by which a plant excretes chemicals that limit or inhibit the growth of nearby plants. Although Hakonechloa macra is known as a shade-loving plant, gardeners on the High Line have noticed that it prefers part sun here. When exposed to direct sun, the papery, variegated blades have been known to fade and sometimes burn.


This grass spreads by rhizomes, though it does so slowly enough to be treated like a clump-forming grass in most gardens.


Hakonechloa macra can be found on the High Line between West 21st and West 27th Streets

The High Line's planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 500 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees – each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line's rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today. Every week we share one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projects.

TD Bank is the Presenting Green Sponsor of the High Line.

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