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Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

Little Bluestem is an iconic warm season grass of the prairie habitat that is commonly used in both landscaping and restoration projects. In shortgrass prairies, it is often the dominant species along with Side-oats Grama. In tallgrass prairies, companion grasses include Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switch Grass.

One of the most widely distributed species of grass in the US, Little Bluestem is very drought-tolerant, but it can do well in moist situations too. Farmers have used this species for hay, but consecutive years of haying will likely cause the species to disappear. In a garden setting, Little Bluestem is valued for its blue-green color in the summer and, after the first frost, it turns beautiful shades of brown, copper, and crimson that will remain all winter. The grass gets fluffy white seed heads that also adds seasonal interest. Some gardeners choose to remove the seed fluff to control the spread of young seedlings.

Little Bluestem is an excellent plant for wildlife. Little Bluestem serves as the larval host for several skipper species including the Dusted Skipper, Cobweb SkipperOttoe SkipperIndian SkipperSwarthy Skipper, and the Crossline Skipper. Other insects that feed on Little Bluestem include grasshoppers, Prairie Walkingsticks, the leaf-mining beetles, thrips, spittlebugs, and leafhoppers. The seeds of this grass are eaten by songbirds. Little bluestem provides necessary overwintering habitat and resources for many insects and birds. Female bumble bee queens nest at the base of bunch grasses, like Little Bluestem, where they are protected until they emerge in the Spring. 


Other names for this plant include Andropogon scoparius and Beardgrass.


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