Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) is a tall grass native to much of the prairie and Great Plains regions of North America.
Andropogon gerardii, big bluestem, is tolerant of a wide range of soils and moisture. Depending on soil and moisture conditions, it grows to a height of 1 – 3m (3 – 10 ft). Big bluestem is a perennial bunch grass. The stem base turns to a blue-purple as it matures. The seed heads have three spike-like projections, resulting in another common name for big bluestem — "turkey foot". The roots are deep, and the plants send out strong, tough rhizomes, so it forms very strong sod. Big bluestem is also called tallgrass or simply called prairie tallgrass.
Big bluestem is a late-successional grass in prairie ecosystems. It grows in tall, dense stands that shade out other plant species. "These stands tend to gradually increase in size over time, unless a disturbance (such as overgrazing, or lack of grazing) allows other plant species to re-establish themselves."
Cultivation and uses
Big bluestem, which has many variants, is considered to be good forage for horses and cattle, and can also be cut and used for hay. It has a high protein level. While not considered the highest quality native forage found in the United States, it has long been considered a desirable and ecologically important grass by cattle ranchers and range-land ecologists.
Due to its high biomass, big bluestem is being considered as a potential feedstock for ethanol production.
Andropogon gerardii is the State Grass of Illinois and Missouri. Big Bluestem is the official prairie grass of Manitoba.