Broomsedge Vs Little Bluestemor

Broomsedge Vs Little Bluestemor

Broomsedge Vs Little Bluestem

Little bluestem is considered one of the big four desirable grasses (little bluestem, Indiangrass, big bluestem and switchgrass) in the Great Plains for its livestock and wildlife value. In the spring, little bluestem can have crude protein levels higher than 20 percent. Once little bluestem matures, crude protein levels can drop as low as 4 percent, but cattle still graze it over broomsedge bluestem. Due to little bluestem’s palatability, cattle select it over many other grasses, potentially causing its abundance to decline over time if a manager is not careful with grazing management.


There are several species in Kansas referred to as “bluestems”. Two of our native bluestems, big bluestem [Andropogon gerardii Vitman] and little bluestem [Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash] occur throughout Kansas and are important constituents in the mid- and tallgrass prairies of central and eastern Kansas. Sand bluestem [Andropogon hallii Hack.] is found on sandy soils in Kansas. A less widely distributed species is splitbeard bluestem [Andropogon ternarius Michx.] found in a few counties in southeast Kansas. Another species found throughout Kansas is silver bluestem [Bothriochloa laguroides (DC.) Herter]. Broomsedge bluestem [Andropogon virginicus L.] is found primarily in eastern Kansas.Little bluestem is a native, perennial, warm-season bunchgrass. Stem bases are flat and the vegetation turns reddish-brown when mature. Plants are 2-4 feet tall and will grow on a wide range of soils including well-drained sands. The seed heads have small fuzzy seeds with a twisted awn (Figure 3). It has fair-to-good forage value, especially in the early-season before stem elongation. Fun fact: Little bluestem is the official state grass of Kansas.

Caucasian bluestem is an introduced, perennial, warm-season bunchgrass. The species was introduced from Australia and southern Asia. It grows to a height of 2 to 3 feet. Leaves and sheaths usually lack hairs, but a few hairs occur at the leaf collar. Stems are grooved on one side. The seed heads are 2.5 to 6 inches long, much branched, and purplish in color (Figure 7). Caucasian bluestem will be grazed during vegetative growth, but is used little by livestock when animals are given a choice.Yellow bluestem is an introduced, perennial, warm-season bunchgrass. Other common names include Turkestan bluestem and King Ranch bluestem. Yellow bluestem originates from northern Africa, Eurasian and the Mediterranean. It reaches about 3 feet in height. The leaves and sheaths usually have hairs. The vegetation resembles Caucasian bluestem. The stems can be decumbent and bent and conspicuously yellow in color (Figure 8). The seed head consists of 4 to 12 finger-like branches. Like Caucasian bluestem, yellow bluestems are consumed little by livestock if given a choice. (Source: webapp.agron.ksu.edu)


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