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Friday, August 31, 2012
Plant of the Week: Little Bluestem
This attractive prairie grass is a tussock, or bunch, grass: it grows as a singular plant in clumps, tufts or bunches. It displays blue and silver-tinted stems and leaves in the spring that turn to lovely shades of wine-red in fall. In winter, while the stems of other grasses become matted, this grass species’ stems (or culms) remain defiantly upright, and little bluestem can retain its reddish color into spring. Its foliage and seeds also provide a versatile salad bar for many species: the caterpillars of several skippers (which resemble a cross between small moths and small butterflies); grasshoppers; insects (spittlebugs, leafhoppers, beetles); small songbirds (field sparrows, slate-colored juncos); and bison, cattle and other hoofed mammalian herbivores.
Common Name: little bluestem, beard grass
Scientific Name: Schizachyrium scoparium
Native Status: throughout North America
Plant Type: perennial tussock grass
Height: up to 3 feet
Flowering Time: late summer to fall
Flower Color: light blue to tan, brown and wine-red
Interest: important food source for many species; can be used in gardens as an ornamental grass; highly drought-resistant once established
Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
By transforming the South Pond into Nature Boardwalk, Lincoln Park Zoo has created an urban ecosystem in the heart of the city. Enjoy a virtual view as native plants and animals establish themselves in this rare refuge.
As Lincoln Park Zoo’s director of horticulture, Brian oversees the zoo’s gardens, from bud to bloom.
As coordinator of wildlife management, Mason chronicles the bugs, birds, fish, insects, mammals and more that make their homes at Nature Boardwalk.
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