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A Little Bluestem Plant

A Little Bluestem Plant

Little Bluestem Plant

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Bluestem plants blooming in Iowa, where I grew up. I celebrate their presence each spring. We used to plant bluestem as foundation for our yard, but no longer.This mid-prairie species gets its name from the bluish color of the stem bases in the spring, but most striking is the plant's reddish-tan color in fall, persisting through winter snows. The seeds, fuzzy white at maturity, are of particular value to small birds in winter. A related species, Big Bluestem or Turkeyfoot (Andropogon gerardii), has finger-like seed heads that somewhat resemble a turkey's foot. It reaches a height of 12 feet in favorable bottomland sites and is also one of the East's most important native prairie grasses. 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.

Grass

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Little Bluestem is an excellent plant for wildlife. Little Bluestem serves as the larval host for several skipper species including the Dusted Skipper, Cobweb Skipper, Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Swarthy 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. A Prairie Moon • August 9 Hi Mary. Good question, but no, we wouldn’t advise it. Little Blue is a warm season grass and the seeds need no overwintering to germinate (Germ Code: A) so with warm soils in the month of September, it likely will germinate. The hard frosts soon to come in October could kill the young seedlings that haven’t had a chance to really take root. Spring would be the better time to sow a Germ Code A, warm-season prairie grasses like Little Blue, Big Blue, Indian Grass, Side-oats Grama, June Grass, Switch Grass, etc.

Noted for its striking reddish-tan foliage, Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem) is a densely-tufted, deciduous, perennial grass forming an upright clump of fine-textured, slender, arching, blue-green leaves. The foliage of this North American prairie native turns striking copper-orange to dark orange-red in the fall and winter, persisting through winter snows. In late summer, delicate inflorescences appear in 3 in. long racemes (7 cm) on branched stems rising above the foliage. At first inconspicuous, they become particularly attractive after they dry and turn silvery reddish-brown. Their white, shining, cotton-tufted seedheads are of great value to small birds in winter. Providing a very long season of interest, Little Bluestem is easy to grow, tolerates heat, drought and humidity. It is an attractive addition to the landscape and can be used as an accent in borders, or in drifts in natural settings where it will mix happily with prairie wildflowers. Little Bluestem is a highly ornamental native grass prized for its blue-green leaf color and upright form. The foliage provides excellent color all season-long and creates the perfect backgrop for prairie flowers. Densely mounded, Little Bluestem reaches a height of 3 feet by autumn, when it turn a striking reddish-bronze, bearing illuminated tufted seeds. The rigid clumps can withstand snow and rain, allowing the reddish grass stems to remain upright for most of the winter. (Source: www.prairienursery.com)

 

 

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