Bluestem grasses

For seed season this year, I’ve been paying closer attention to grasses – in particular sorting out different bluestem species. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is taller than I am, well over 6 feet:

In the fruiting phase, the seed heads are less interesting than other bluestem grasses. But the flowers are a fascinating combination of brushes and bright yellow anthers:

I’ve only found Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) in one meadow, mixed with Little Bluestem:

The Broomsedge seeds and filaments are less regular than Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium):

Little Bluestem is the most common in my area, and it’s the prettiest.

8 thoughts on “Bluestem grasses

    • There are a few patches of Big bluestem around here, but Little bluestem is ubiquitous. For some reason, I haven’t seen good descriptions of the Big bluestem flowers at the botany sites I visit.

  1. The little bluestem on our prairies is exploding just now. It’s one of my favorite grasses, and it seems to be having a banner year. There are a few spots where big bluestem can be found, and Indian grass, but tI’ve only seen large stands of them farther north. Your photos of the individual stems are beautiful. I’ve never seen little bluestem appear so symmetrical.

    • Little bluestem is the prettiest of these three, easily my favorite. You see regular seed heads like this one if you catch one when it is just opening. I just walked through fields of little bluestem, but the seeds had dispersed for most, so they were raggedy in appearance.
      The awns of Broomsedge bluestem are extravagantly long, the photograph doesn’t quite show that. The big bluestem was backlit, the sun was going down behind it. Thanks!

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