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Meet Little Bluestem

Meet Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem by Valerie Wright

Dear Students,

Let me introduce myself. I'm Little Bluestem, and I am your KANSAS STATE GRASS.

I live in every county in Kansas, and when the first settlers came to Kansas, my ancestors were already growing on the hills. I'm going tell you how to recognize me when you take a walk on a prairie or in a pasture, or see me in a landscape near a building or home.

First, I'm taller than the grass in your yard, but shorter than my "cousin" Big Bluestem. By the end of the summer, I'm about 2 to 4 feet tall. When I first begin to come up in early April, my young shoots are greenish-blue to purplish, and instead of separate shoots spread out equally like a lawn, I have many stems close together in a clump, with space between the bunches. As my stems grow, you will find thin leaf blades (2 to 12 inches long) along the stem. The leaf blades may be slightly folded.

Between July and September, another change happens. You may notice many spike-like structures developing at the top of the stems. These are flowering stalks, holding many very small individual flowers. If you look through a magnifying glass, you might see the tiny bristly structures that are the flowers. They may look more like a seed to you than a flower.

When the seeds do form on the flowering stalks (there may be as many as 200 stalks in one Little Bluestem bunch), you will know them by their fuzzy white appearance. After frost, the stems change to a copper color that gives their part of the prairie a reddish-orange glow. The pleasing image of the white seed heads and their tan/wine red stems dancing in the wind can be seen through the fall and into the winter.

I should also tell you about my roots even though you probably won't see them. They go down into the ground for 5 to 8 feet!

Come see me on the prairie and get to know your State Grass.


Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

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