|Mature seed heads|
Andropogon scoparius Michx.
Schizachyrium scoparium, commonly known as little bluestem or beard grass, is a North American prairie grass native to most of the United States, except California, Nevada, and Oregon, and a small area north of the Canada–US border. Its greatest manifestation has always been in the Midwestern prairies. Little bluestem is a perennial bunchgrass and is prominent in tallgrass prairie, along with big bluestem (Andropogon gerardi), indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans) and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum). It is a warm-season species, meaning it employs the C4 photosynthetic pathway.[clarification needed]
Little bluestem grows to become an upright, roundish mound of soft, bluish-green or grayish-green blades in May and June that is about two to three feet high. In July, it initiates flowering stalks, which reach four to five feet in height. In fall, it displays a coppery or mostly orange color with tints of red or purple. Sometimes it displays in some places, as in sandy soils, a redder fall color. It becomes a more orangish-bronze in winter until early spring, when it becomes more tan.
It is recommended for USDA zones 3 to 10.
The plant grows best in full sun and on well-drained soils. It can be dug up and divided in spring, as many other perennials, for propagation or to reduce the size of an old, big plant. It can be burned in late winter or early spring in a prairie or meadow before new growth, like many American prairie grasses (big bluestem, indian-grass, and switchgrass), which burn quickly and cleanly.
A number of cultivars have been developed. 'Carousel' is a compact form with especially good fall color developed by Chicagoland Grows. 'The Blues' is a selection that has bluer foliage.. 'Standing ovation' is a tight, upright form with bluer and thicker blades and sturdier stems.
One variety, var. littorale, is native to the eastern and southern coastal strip of the United States, as well as the shores of the Great Lakes. It is adapted to sand dune habitat, and is sometimes considered a separate species, S. littorale.
- "Taxon: Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-05-22. Retrieved 2010-11-05.
- Schillo, Rebecca (2011). Nina Cummings, ed. Native Landscaping Takes Root in Chicago. p. 13.
- Schizachyrium littorale. USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet.
- Schizachyrium littorale. Grass Manual Treatment.
- Koranda, Jeannine (6 April 2010), "Kansas has a new state grass", Wichita Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, retrieved 13 April 2010
- Klepper, David (6 April 2010), "Little Bluestem gets a page in the statute book", Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, retrieved 13 April 2010
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