Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash

little 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

Little bluestem is common in New England in a variety of habitats including grasslands, woodlands and rock outcrops. It is also an important component of tallgrass prairies. It is often grown in gardens as an ornamental, in part due to the attractive bronze color of its leaves in autumn.

Habitat

Anthropogenic (man-made or disturbed habitats), cliffs, balds, or ledges, grassland, meadows and fields, ridges or ledges, wetland margins (edges of wetlands), woodlands

Characteristics

Habitat
  • terrestrial
  • wetlands
New England state
  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
Leaf blade width
1.5–9 mm
Inflorescence branches
  • the flowers are attached to branches rather than to the main axis of the inflorescence
  • there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
Spikelet length
3–11 mm
Glume relative length
both glumes are as long or longer than all of the florets
Awn on glume
  • the glume has an awn
  • the glume has no awn
One or more florets
there is one floret per spikelet
Lemma awn length
0–17 mm
Leaf ligule length
0.5–2 mm
Show All Characteristics
  • Flowers
    Anther number
    2–3
    Awn on glume
    • the glume has an awn
    • 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
    • there are no branch points between the base of the inflorescence axis and the flowers, or they are not obvious
    Inflorescence crowding
    NA
    Inflorescence length
    20–80 mm
    Inflorescence type (general)
    • the inflorescence is a spike, or is spike-like, lacking obvious branches
    • 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
    • the spikelets are mainly found at the nodes, in the axils of leaves, along the stem
    Lemma awn base
    • NA
    • the awn is attached right at the tip of the lemma
    Lemma awn length
    0–17 mm
    Lemma awn number
    • the lemma has no awn
    • the lemma has one awn on it
    Lemma awn orientation
    the awn of the lemma is straight
    Lemma base hair length
    Up to 2.5 mm
    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 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
    Lemma vein number
    • 1
    • 3
    Lower glume length
    5–10 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
    all the flowers on the plant have both carpels and stamens (synoecious)
    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
    3–11 mm
    Spikelet number per node
    0
    Spikelet pedicel
    • the spikelets do not have pedicels
    • the spikelets have pedicels
    Spikelet pedicel length
    0–7.5 mm
    Spikelet position
    the spikelets emerge from both the upper and lower halves of the inflorescence branches
    Spikelets per panicle branch
    0
    Spikelets spiny
    the spikelets do not appear spiny
    Upper glume length
    5–10 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
    • no
    • yes
    Roots
    • the plant has rhizomes (horizontal underground stem with roots growing from it)
    • there are only slender roots on the plant
  • Leaves
    Basal leaves
    the plant has large or prominent tufts of leaves at 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 hairless, but it may have tiny prickles that give it a sand-papery feel
    • the leaf blade is hairy
    Leaf blade length
    9–45 cm
    Leaf blade texture
    the leaf blade is rough and sandpapery
    Leaf blade width
    1.5–9 mm
    Leaf ligule length
    0.5–2 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 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
    • edges of wetlands
    • grasslands
    • man-made or disturbed habitats
    • meadows or fields
    • ridges or ledges
    • woodlands
  • Stem, shoot, branch
    Hairs at nodes
    the stem nodes are hairless or they have very sparse hairs
    Plant height
    30–210 cm
    Roots at lower stem nodes
    no
    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
    Stem thickness at base
    1–3 mm

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.

Maine
unranked (S-rank: SNR)
Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. littorale

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

ssp. scoparium

Massachusetts
unranked (S-rank: SNR)

Native to North America?

Yes

Synonyms

  • Andropogon scoparius Michx.
  • Andropogon scoparius Michx. var. ducis Fern. & Grisc.
  • Andropogon scoparius Michx. var. frequens F.T. Hubbard
  • Andropogon scoparius Michx. var. neomexicanus (Nash) A.S. Hitchc.
  • Andropogon scoparius Michx. var. septentrionalis Fern. & Grisc.

Family

Poaceae

Notes on Subspecies and Varieties in New England

Our variety is Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash var. scoparium.

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Information from Dichotomous Key of Flora Novae Angliae

2.  Schizachyrium scoparium (Michx.) Nash var. scoparium N

little bluestem. Andropogon scoparius Michx.; A. scoparius Michx. var. ducis Fern. & Grisc.; A. scoparius Michx. var. frequens F.T. Hubbard; A. scoparius Michx. var. neomexicanus (Nash) A.S. Hitchc.; A. scoparius Michx. var. septentrionalis Fern. & Grisc. • CT, MA, ME, NH, RI, VT; throughout. Grasslands, dry fields, roadsides, rock outcrops, open woodlands.