Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Little Bluestem

Blue Jay Barrens has a broad range of grass species in its prairies. A variety of short grasses grow in this field, but it’s the Little Bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, that is most noticeable now.

The fluffy spikelets catch the sun and make the prairie sparkle. Little Bluestem is the perfect grass for making waves and patterns on a windy day.

Little Bluestem holds its seed well and will stand up through most winters. When the sparrows have cleaned up the Indian Grass seed they will move into these fields and start going after the tiny bluestem seeds.

Grasses, including Little Bluestem, are host plants to many species of skippers. During the summer, skippers are very plentiful in fields like this. Having multiple grass species in the field increases the diversity of animals that feed on those grasses.

Many people confuse Little Bluestem with Common Broom-sedge, Andropogon virginicus, shown above on the right. Broom-sedge is a stouter grass that tends to hide the seed inside the curled leaf blade. The Little Bluestem holds its seed out in the open at the end of a short stem. Both are native grasses and have a place in the prairie landscape.

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