November 24, 2017

Monarch of the Prairie

Andropogon gerardii - Big Bluestem

Credit: NRCS Plant Materials Center | Wikimedia Commons - Andropogon gerardii - Big Bluestem

Hardy to Zone 3 is Andropogon gerardii, otherwise known as Big Bluestem. This American native bunchgrass is also called turkeyfoot because its seedhead branches into three parts, resembling a turkey’s foot. At 4-8 feet tall and with blue-green stems, Big Bluestem is the “star component of the Big Four native grass species that characterize the tallgrass prairies of central North America,” according to wildflower.org. Largely responsible for the formation of the famed prairie sod, Big Bluestem was once abundant, but overgrazing and land destruction has reduced its presence to patches of its former range. “Part of the problem is that cattle love it so much – some ranchers refer to it as ice cream for cows – and it cannot take concentrated grazing; the seasonal grazing of migratory bison is what it’s evolved to cope with,” according to wildflower.org.