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Andropogon gerardi
Andropogon gerardii (3904160434).jpg

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Monocots
(unranked): Commelinids
Order: Poales
Family: Poaceae
Genus: Andropogon
Species: A. gerardi
Binomial name
Andropogon gerardi

Andropogon gerardi, known commonly as big bluestem, turkeyfoot,[2] tall bluestem,[3] and bluejoint,[4] is a tall grass (family Poaceae) native to much of the Great Plains and prairie regions of central North America and grasslands, savannas and woodlands throughout eastern North America.


This species is tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions. Depending on soil and moisture conditions, it grows to a height of 1–3 metres (3.3–9.8 ft). Big bluestem is a perennial bunchgrass. The stem base turns blue or purple as it matures. The seed heads have three spike-like projections. The roots are deep, and the plants send out strong, tough rhizomes, so it forms very strong sod. It blooms in the summer and seeds into the fall.


Big bluestem is a mid-successional grass in prairie ecosystems. It grows in tall, dense stands that shade out other plant species. The stands grow until disturbance interrupts their spread. It is shade intolerant, but typically regrows after wildfire.



The grass and its variants are good forage for horses and cattle, and can also be cut and used for hay. The grass is high in protein. While not considered the highest quality native forage found in the United States, it has long been considered a desirable and ecologically important grass by cattle ranchers and rangeland ecologists.[5][6]


Big Bluestem is cultivated by specialty plant nurseries for its drought tolerance and native status. It is often grown for wildlife gardens, natural landscaping, and grassland habitat restoration projects.


Due to its high biomass, big bluestem is being considered as a potential feedstock for ethanol production.[7]


Andropogon gerardi is the state grass of Illinois[8] and Missouri[9] and the official prairie grass of Manitoba.[10]

Nomenclatural notes[edit]

USDA GRIN rejects the spelling gerardii and provides reasoning for gerardi as being the correct spelling for the specific epithet of this taxon.[2] Andropogon gerardii still makes appearances in various literature, including USDA publications.[11]


  1. ^ Summa Pl. 6: 16. 1792 "Plant Name Details for Andropogon gerardii". IPNI. Retrieved December 4, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "Andropogon gerardi". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 12 December 2017. 
  3. ^ Uchytil, R. J. 1988. Andropogon gerardii. In: Fire Effects Information System. USDA, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Accessed 20 June 2013.
  4. ^ Andropogon gerardii. Integrated Taxonomic Information System.
  5. ^ "Establishment of Switchgrass and Big Bluestem in Corn with Atrazine" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  6. ^ Kaiser, Jerry (1 March 2011). "Big Bluestem and Indiangrass for Biomass Production by Variety Selection and Establishment Methods for Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa" (PDF). Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "Big bluestem as a bioenergy crop: A review". Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 52: 740–756. doi:10.1016/j.rser.2015.07.144. Retrieved 17 January 2017. 
  8. ^ State Symbol: Illinois State Prairie Grass — Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). Illinois State Museum.
  9. ^ State Symbols of Missouri - The State Grass. Office of the Secretary of State of Missouri.
  10. ^ Vote for Manitoba's Official Prairie Grass Emblem. Manitoba Provincial Grass Campaign Committee. 2008.
  11. ^ USDA Plants Profile for Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Further reading[edit]

Everitt, J.H., Drawe, D.L., Little, C.R., and Lonard, R.I. 2011. Grasses of South Texas. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, Texas. 336 pp. (ISBN 978-0-89672-668-0)

External links[edit]


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