Monkey grass -- also known as lilyturf, dwarf mondo grass and Liriope -- is an ornamental plant that has several main landscaping uses. The plant, which comes in several different but uniformly indestructible varieties, can be used as ground cover or to create a border. Some people believe the seeds and grass are poisonous, but experts have debunked this myth.
Monkey grass is characterized by its long green, slender leaves and purplish or pinkish flowers. The plant begins to bloom during late summer and early fall. Many people choose to plant monkey grass because it can withstand quite a beating: whether it gets run over by a car or trampled by careless children playing soccer, monkey grass can handle almost anything. There are two main strains of monkey grass: Liriope spicata and Liriope muscari; Liriope spicata is a creeping plant that can take over your yard if you aren't diligent.
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Liriope originated in East Asia, but its forgiving temperament led to its introduction on other continents. Monkey grass is quite tolerant to a variety of extreme weather conditions: it does not require much water, and it can thrive even in very cold weather. Therefore, it can survive almost anywhere, and is common in North American gardens and yards; it is especially common in the southeastern states in the U.S.
Liriope and Your Pet
Rumors abound about monkey grass and its seeds being toxic to animals; there have been no reported instances of humans being poisoned by ingesting or coming into contact with the seeds or other parts of the plant. Some owners say that their dogs or cats have gotten upset stomachs after ingesting monkey grass; common complaints include vomiting and apparent stomachaches. However, some dogs and cats that ingest regular grass experience the same symptoms.
Despite accounts by pet owners of monkey-grass poisonings, experts say there is no evidence to suggest monkey grass is a threat. According to numerous sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, monkey grass is nontoxic; it does not pose a threat to humans or animals. Gardening expert and author Walter Reeves notes that while Liriope seeds -- and other plant parts -- are not poisonous, they may "cause stomach upset when consumed in large quantities."
- "Southern Living"; Smart Choices with Monkey Grass; Rebecca Bull Reed; March 2006
- Vanderbilt Poison Lifeline: Pretty Plants and Poisonous Plants
- "The Victoria Advocate"; Monkey Grass Harmful?; Milton Brown; June 2, 1974
- Walter Reeves: Poisonous Plants
- Southeast Garden: Liriope
- World's Vet; Why Dogs Eat Grass; Dr. Richard Orzeck
Ginger Yapp has been writing professionally since 2006, specializing in travel and film topics. Her work has appeared in such publications as "USA Today" and online at Hotels.com. Yapp also has experience writing and editing for a small California newspaper. She earned her B.A. in film and media studies and has worked as an ESL teacher at an international school.