Grazing Oklahoma: Little Bluestem

By Rob Cook

Characteristics: Little bluestem is a native, warm-season, perennial tufted bunch grass. Mature height is about two to four feet tall. The leaves are flat, erect and have a blue-green color during the growing season. They can grow up to 1/8 to 1/4 inch wide, up to six to 10 inches long. The leaves and stems gradually turn reddish-brown by late fall. The stems are flat, especially at the base, and may be purplish in color when they are young. The slender spike-like seedhead emerges from a lightly inflated leaf.

Area of Importance: Little bluestem grows in well-drained soils from open prairies to rocky outcrops. It is the state grass of Kansas and Nebraska. It is a dominant forage of the True Prairie in Oklahoma and is considered one of the “big four” grasses. It is good forage for cattle. Although it has very little forage value for wildlife, it provides good fawning cover for deer and excellent nesting cover for grassland ground-nesting birds.

Learn more about little bluestem by reading Grazing Oklahoma in the December issue of OKFR!