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Much of southern Minnesota, where I live and work, features bluish-purple irregular turf called bluestem grass. Depending on the weather, it can appear light blue, lavender, black, or brownish-green. This unusual omnipresent plant not only looks beautiful, but it also provides some natural and medicinal properties as well.Bluestem Grasses consist of a variety of grasses that are native to much of the prairie and Great Plains regions of North America. There are three variations of bluestem grasses: big bluestem, little bluestem, and sand bluestem. Any of these low maintenance ornamental grasses are outstanding when planted in mass plantings or as an accent plant. Providing great texture, Blue Stem is a striking addition in any yard all summer, fall, and winter. These Bluestem grasses are often used to stabilize various soils and protect from erosion caused by the wind. Bluestems are warm season, native, large clumping perennial grasses that come in several varieties and are used for forage, landscaping, wildlife, and conservation.
These grasses are tolerant of a wide range of soils and moisture. They thrive in warm temperatures with moderate amounts of rain and tolerate harsh conditions. During the cold winters they turn brown and go dormant. Big Bluestem Grasses can grow up to 10 feet tall, while the Sand Bluestem is a bit smaller and grows to a height of about 7 feet. Little Bluestem Grasses are the smallest of the three varieties and grows to a maximum of 3 feet. The flowers of Bluestems are usually in 3 dense, elongate clusters from a common point that resembles a turkey foot.Bluestem grasses are coarse, sometimes tufted plants with flat or folded leaf blades and solid or pithy stems. The stems are often hairy, sometimes reddish or greenish in appearance. Several species have rhizomes (underground stems) and can spread vegetatively. The flower spikelets are typically clustered at the stem tips or in the leaf axils and produce fruits with straight or twisted awns.
Among the indigenous species of perennial grasses that are the natural denizens of meadows, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) stands out. This plant needs little care, is remarkably unfussy about soil and moisture, and all on its own, without any intervention by gardeners, puts on a colorful show each and every season of the year.Little bluestem is not to be confused with big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), which was the dominant species of the tall grass prairie. It is a warm-season perennial with similar cultivation needs to little bluestem, but it grows taller (up to 9 feet) and spreads by rhizomes. It gets its nickname, Turkeyfoot, from the shape of its flower (which is structured in three parts and does in fact somewhat resemble the foot of that large bird).All hail the king of native grasses—the big bluestem! Native to prairies across North America, big bluestem is used extensively in landscaping, agriculture, and landscape conservation efforts. It is a hardy ornamental grass that can tolerate poor soil conditions, drought, and is even adapted to fire. (Source: www.thespruce.com)