Andropogon ternarius

splitbeard bluestem, paintbrush bluestem


Leaf Arrangement


Leaf Type


Growth Form


Flower Color


Flower Month

August - November

Height (meters)

0.8 - 1.2

Milky Sap








Growing Season

Warm season

Wetland Class


Prairie Coefficient of Conservatism


Field Characters

Identification tip: This grass has a distinctive appearance with a narrow clump, usually 5-10 cm in diameter, and leaves curled downward and concentrated near the base. Andropogon ternarius resembles little bluestem, especially on well-drained sandy sites, but can be distinguished by its inflorescence which is divided into two rames (see photo). Late in the season old seeds talks are often useful for distinguishing A. ternarius. A conspicuous paintbrush-like tuft of hairs remains on the branch tips after racemes shatter (Grelen and Hughes 1984). The bluestems have pithy stems like corn, while most other grasses have hollow stems.

Cultural Information

Seeds average approximately 850,000/lb.

Animal Use

The following information for the genus Andropogon: Animals that eat its seeds: Prairie chicken, Wild turkey, Chipping sparrow, Meadow mouse. Animals that eat the plants: White-tailed deer, meadow mouse (Martin et al. 1951). This grass is stemmy, of low palatablility, and produces sparse forage that is grazed only in the very early stage of growth.

Natural History

A warm-season bunchgrass that reproduces by seed and tillering. It is found on a variety of soils throughout the southeastern United States. It seems to be best adapted to reddish prairie and red sandstone soils. Here it often appears in pure stands during plant succession. This grass is considered unpalatable and produces sparse forage which is grazed only in early stages. It is an invader that moves in on abused prairie and low fertility pastures. Good management and high fertility will control this weedy native (Philips Petroleum Company 1955). The scientific name "Andropogon" is from two Greek words "aner," meaning man, and "pogon," meaning beard. The common name "beardgrass" given to bluestems corresponds to their scientific name.


Prairies, pastures, woodland borders.