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

Family: Poaceae

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

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