Schizachyrium scoparium

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Schizachyrium scoparium
Andropogon scoparius.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Subfamily: Panicoideae
Tribe: Andropogoneae
Genus: Schizachyrium
Species: S. scoparium
Binomial name
Schizachyrium scoparium
(Michx.) Nash

Andropogon scoparius Michx.[1]

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 little over the Canadian border. It is recommended for USDA zones 3 to 10. 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 or three feet high. In July it starts to send up its flowering stalks until it gets to be about four to five feet high. In fall, it displays a good coppery or mostly orange color with tints of red or purple. Sometimes it displays in some places, as in sandy soils, a more red fall color. In winter it becomes a more orangish-bronze until it becomes more tan in early spring. In other words, it makes a great plant for winter interest and can also be a great dried plant indoors in a vase or something. It should be cut down low to the ground in early spring before new growth appears later in spring.

The plant grows best in full sun and a well-drained soil. 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 as big bluestem, indian-grass, and switchgrass, and they all burn quickly and cleanly. One can burn individual plants in a garden by cutting off most of the top and setting fire to the base foliage of about 6" high. If an older plant begins to allow the flower-seed stalks to fall over, it is easy to prune back the stalks or stake them, though when the plant tissue dries in autumn, the stalks will return to being erect by themselves. It is an easy, low maintenance perennial that is deer resistant. It is definitely a beautiful ornamental grass that should be used so much more, as most of the gardening public or landscapers don't know it.

It is sold by just about all native plant nurseries as seed or plants for prairie and native meadow restorations and as ornamental plants for gardens and landscapes. 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 than the mother species. 'Standing ovation' is a tight, upright form with bluer and thicker blades and sturdier stems than the mother species.[2]

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. It is sometimes considered a separate species, S. littorale.[3][4]


Little bluestem is the official state grass of Nebraska and Kansas.[5][6]


  1. ^ "Taxon: Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash". Germplasm Resources Information Network. United States Department of Agriculture. 2003-05-22. Retrieved 2010-11-05. 
  2. ^ Schillo, Rebecca (2011). Nina Cummings, ed. Native Landscaping Takes Root in Chicago. p. 13. 
  3. ^ Schizachyrium littorale. USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet.
  4. ^ Schizachyrium littorale. Grass Manual Treatment.
  5. ^ Koranda, Jeannine (6 April 2010), "Kansas has a new state grass", Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kansas), retrieved 13 April 2010 
  6. ^ 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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