BIG BLUESTEM
File Size: 94 KB
 
Andropogon gerardii  Vitman
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, Chase County, Kansas
Perennial
Height: 2 to 7 feet
Family: Poaceae - Grass Family
Flowering Period:   July, August, September
Also Called: Turkey-foot.
Culms: Erect, stout, solid, round, branching toward summit, glabrous, waxy, grooved on 1 side.
Blades: Flat or rolled inward or outward, 6-24 inches long, to 1/2 inch wide, usually smooth below, rough above, bluish or purplish, usually hairy near collar.
Sheaths: Glabrous or hairy, generally shorter than internode, waxy, purplish
Ligules: Fringed membrane, less than 1/10 inch long.
Inflorescences: Racemes, 2-7, finger-like, each 1.5-4 inches long, purplish to yellowish brown, terminal
Spikelets: Borne in pairs; sessile spikelets perfect; lemmas with awn up to 3/4 inch long that is bent and twisted below; stalked spikelets about same size, staminate or sterile, without awns.
Habitat: Lowland prairies, plains, and open woods, in deep, fertile, dry soils.
Distribution: Throughout, but rare in southwest corner. It is the most abundant grass in the tallgrass prairie region.
Reproduction: Reproduces primarily via rhizomes.
Forage Value: One of the highest-quality forage grasses on the prairie. Livestock relish it, usually preferring it to other grasses. Big bluestem decreases with overgrazing.
Uses: Prairie chickens and songbirds consume the seeds.
Comments: Sometimes called "turkey-foot" for the distinctive shape of the inflorescence. Dead stems often remain standing throughout the winter, and the leaf blades take on a reddish cast after frost.

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