South Dakota Native Plant Research
Poaceae : Schizachyrium scoparium

Poaceae : Schizachyrium scoparium


Download Seed image (59 KB)

Download Seedling: Little bluestem seedling growing in research plot near SDSU. (101 KB)

Download Mature plant (1.7 MB)

Download Inflorescence (839 KB)

Download Summer blue leaves (2.4 MB)

Download Winter copper leaves (271 KB)

Family Name


Common Name

Little bluestem

Native American Name

Lakota: pȟeží šašá swúla


Schizachyrium scoparium is a tuft forming, perennial bunchgrass with short rhizomes and solid, slightly flattened culms that grow to 1 m in height. The leaf bluish colored blades are folded and sometimes rolled under, smooth to hair, especially near the collar, 4-30 cm long and up to 4 mm wide. The usually hairless sheath has a keel and the membranous ligule is fringed and < 2.5 mm long. The flowering culms are many branched, each terminating in a single spicate straight to undulating raceme, 2-6 cm long, the rachis and pedicels hairy. The copper colored spikelets occur in pairs, one sessile and perfect with bracts (glumes) 6-9 mm long, the other pedicellate and usually staminate with glumes 3-6 mm long. Little bluestem blooms from July into October on prairies throughout South Dakota.

Additional Notes

Little bluestem is a striking bunchgrass that adds year-round color and texture to a native plant garden. The leaves are greenish to very blue and turn yellow to copper to red in the fall and winter, depending upon the seed source. Many cultivated selections are available. This species can adapt to a wide range of conditions and is drought tolerant. They attract many species of butterflies, bumblebees and birds.

Horticulture Notes

Seed collection: Collect seeds in late summer and fall when the seeds turn brown.

Germination: Seeds are not dormant and can be planted in the fall or spring.

Vegetative propagation: Shoots generated on rhizomes of mature plants can be separated when dormant.

Light: Full sun to partial shade>

Soils: A wide range of sandy, loamy, to light clay, well drained soils will provide for good plant growth.

Water: Medium wet to dry conditions.

Poaceae : Schizachyrium scoparium