Andropogon gerardii Vitman

big bluestem

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New England Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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North America Distribution

Adapted from BONAP data

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Facts About

Big bluestem is a major component of central North America's tallgrass prairies. Cows love to eat it, but it cannot tolerate overgrazing. Native americans used big bluestem in a variety of ways, including as a medicine and building material.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), cliffs, balds, or ledges, floodplain (river or stream floodplains), grassland, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges, shores of rivers or lakes, shrublands or thickets, woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
2–10 mm
Inflorescence branches
the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
Spikelet length
5–11 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
Awn on glume
the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0–25 mm
Leaf sheath hair type
  • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
  • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
Leaf ligule length
0.4–2.5 mm
Anther length
2.5–4.5 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther length
    2.5–4.5 mm
    Anther number
    3
    Awn on glume
    the glume has no awn
    Bristles below spikelets
    no
    Floret lower bract texture
    the lemma is thin and flexible
    Floret number
    1
    Floret types within spikelet
    there are at least two distinct forms of florets within one spikelet
    Glume awn length
    0 mm
    Glume relative length
    both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
    Glume shape
    the glume is flat or curved in cross-section
    Glume veins
    • 1
    • 3
    • 5
    • 7 or more
    Glumes per spikelet
    2
    Inflorescence arrangement
    the plant has two types of spikelets with different reproductive structures
    Inflorescence axis orientation
    the inflorescence axis is straight
    Inflorescence branches
    the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
    Inflorescence crowding
    NA
    Inflorescence length
    30–150 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    the spikelets are borne on stalks or on branches
    Inflorescence type (specific)
    the inflorescence has pairs (or trios) of spikelets, but with one always either missing a stalk or on a shorter stalk than the other
    Inforescence position
    the spikelets are mainly carried at the end of the stem
    Lemma awn base
    • NA
    • the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn coiled
    the lemma awn is coiled at least one half turn
    Lemma awn length
    0–25 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    the awn of the lemma on dried or older plants is curved or bent outwards
    Lemma base hairs
    the lemma has hairs at the base
    Lemma cross-section
    the lemma is flat or rounded if you cut across the midpoint
    Lemma hairs
    the lemma is hairless between the veins
    Lemma surface
    the surface of the lemma is relatively smooth (not counting any longitudinal veins or hairs)
    Lemma tip
    the lemma tip is split into two or more points
    Lower glume length
    Up to 11 mm
    Lower glume relative length
    the lower glume is nearly as long, or as long as, the upper glume
    One or more florets
    there is one floret per spikelet
    Reproductive system
    some flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens, while other flowers have only one type of reproductive organ (polygamous)
    Spikelet axis length
    0 mm
    Spikelet axis tip
    there is no extension of the spikelet axis beyond the tip of the spikelet
    Spikelet disintegration
    the spikelet breaks off below the glumes
    Spikelet length
    5–11 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    0
    Spikelet pedicel
    • the spikelets do not have pedicels
    • the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    At least 0 mm
    Spikelet position
    NA
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Tip of glume
    the tip of the glume is not divided (though it may have an awn on it)
    Upper glume length
    Up to 11 mm
    Upper glume relative length
    the upper glume is more than one half as long as the lowest lemma
    Upper glume shape
    the upper glume is widest at or below the middle
  • Growth form
    Horizontal rooting stem
    no
    Lifespan
    the plant lives more than two years
    Rhizomes
    yes
    Roots
    the plant has rhizomes (horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has few or no leaves coming from the base of the flowering stem
    Leaf auricles
    the leaves do not have auricles
    Leaf basal lobe hairy
    NA
    Leaf blade cross-section
    the leaf blade is more or less flat in cross-section, or slightly folded or rolled inwards
    Leaf blade hairs
    the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade length
    5–50 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    Leaf blade width
    2–10 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.4–2.5 mm
    Leaf ligule type
    the leaf ligule is in the form of a membrane
    Leaf margin glands
    there are no glands along the edges of the leaf blade
    Leaf sheath closed around stem
    the margins of the leaf sheath are overlapping and not fused together except in the basal half (or less)
    Leaf sheath hair type
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath, but the hairs do not have blisters at their bases
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    Leaf sheath hairs
    • there are hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
    • there are no hairs on the surface of the leaf sheath
  • Place
    Habitat
    • terrestrial
    • wetlands
    New England state
    • Connecticut
    • Maine
    • Massachusetts
    • New Hampshire
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    Specific habitat
    • cliffs, balds, or ledges
    • grasslands
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
    • river or stream floodplains
    • shores of rivers or lakes
    • shrublands or thickets
    • woodlands
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    100–300 cm
    Stem hairs
    the stem is nearly to completely hairless
    Stem orientation
    the stems are upright
    Stem spacing
    the stems grow close together in compact clusters or tufts

Wetland Status

Usually occurs in non-wetlands, but occasionally in wetlands. (Wetland indicator code: FACU)

New England Distribution and Conservation Status

Distribution

Connecticut
present
Maine
present
Massachusetts
present
New Hampshire
present
Rhode Island
present
Vermont
present

Conservation Status

Exact status definitions can vary from state to state. For details, please check with your state.

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Andropogon gerardii var. chrysocomus (Nash) Fern.

Family

Poaceae

Genus

Andropogon

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

1.  Andropogon gerardii Vitman N

big bluestem. Andropogon gerardii Vitman var. chrysocomus (Nash) Fern. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT. Sandy soils of roadsides, grasslands, and shorelines, also on river shore outcrops.