Schizachyrium scoparium

little bluestem, popotillo azul


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Attachment


Leaf Margin


Leaf Type


Leaf Shape


Growth Form


Flower Color

brown, green, white

Flower Month

June - December

Height (meters)

0.1 - 2.1

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

May be identified by its flat, bluish-colored basal shoots which are often streaked with some red, and its leaf blades which tend to fold. Mature plants turn a reddish color in the late summer and fall. In flower it can be differentiated from related species by spikelet-bearing branchlets (racemes) that are solitary on slender bracteate peduncles where as other members of the Andropogon/Schizachyrium/Bothriochloa/Dichanthium complex have spiklet-bearing branches (racemes) in pairs or clusters at the ends of bracteate peduncles or in a leafless terminal cluster.

Cultural Information

This grass is the dominate species in most of coastal prairie and should be included in all coastal prairie plantings. It is often used for erosion control. Seed is abundant where little bluestem is dense and is usually harvested with a grain combine. Although seed is the primary means of propagation for this species the quality of seed set varies greatly from year to year. For planting with a drill or seeder, the seed must be debearded. Harvest from late September to October. Hand stripping is slow but because this species is often found in dense stands it lends itself well to combines and seed strippers. It germinates with no treatment and should be planted in the fall or early spring. Commercial seed usually has 55 % purity and a germination rate of about 60 %. There are 140,800 - 260,000 seeds/lb, and the recommended planting rate is 10-15 lbs/acre.

Animal Use

Desirable forage for cattle. Provides food, cover, and nesting material for small mammals. Granivorous birds eat the seeds. Larval host for the Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Cobweb butterfly and Dixie skipper. Provides nesting materials and structure for native bees. Host plant for some skippers and the little wood satyr butterfly. Forage source for antelope, bison, deer, and cattle.

Natural History

A warm seasoned perennial bunch grass that spreads by seed and tillers. It is the one of the most widely occurring perennial grasses in the United States, being native to all states but California, Washington, Oregon, and Nevada. It grows well on deep to shallow, and sandy to clayey and rocky soils. It's flowering stalks begin to expand around August and flowering begins in September in Louisiana. It makes excellent forage and hay but must not be grazed below 4-6 inches or it will be replaced by other species. It does not form a dense sod unless plenty of moisture is present. It is frequently found on the edge of forests, prairies, and disturbed areas throughout Louisiana and east Texas.


Dry soil, woodlands edge, opening, hillsides, slopes, prairie, plains, meadows, pastures, savannas, old fields, and open woods.