Grazing Oklahoma: Big Bluestem

(Photo courtesy of the Noble Research Institute)

By Rob Cook

Characteristics: Big bluestem is a native, warm-season, perennial bunch grass. At maturity, it can grow to about three to six feet tall. The leaves can grow up to 3/8-inch wide and six to 10 inches long. The leaves are rough to the touch and can have visibly hairy edges. Each plant can have several stems that are often bluish-green in color. The seed head can look like a turkey foot because of its shape and color. Big bluestem has strong underground runners, or rhizomes, that allow it to form colonies. It is often a distinct bluish to bluish-green during the growing season and reddish-orange in the dormant season.