Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Bouteloua gracilis

Blue grama

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama)
Crank, Elinor
Only 12-14 in. in full flower, this is among the shortest of the native ornamental grasses. It is fine-leaved and produces blue-green seedheads which are suspended horizontally like tiny brushes from the tip of each stem. The plant turns tan when dormant. Blue grama grows in bunches in the south, and as a sod-former in the north and at high elevations. It is a perennial.

This is an important, drought-resistant, short grass in the mixed prairies and throughout the Great Plains and the Southwest. It can be confused with Hairy Grama Grass (B. hirsuta), which is distinguished by a sharp point extending beyond the florets. A somewhat similar but shorter species, Buffalograss (B. dactyloides), is usually less than 6 inches (15 cm) high and is typical of dry, short-grass plains. Blue grama is commonly planted as a turfgrass mixed with Buffalograss. Great also for planting in a wildflower meadow and grows easily from seed. One of the most important forage grasses in native ranges.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Linear
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Inflorescence: Spike
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: Foliage normally no more than 4 inches high, seedheads 1 to 2 feet.
Leaf: Gray-Green
Fruit: Bluish green
Size Class: 1-3 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Yellow
Bloom Time: Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


USA: AZ , CA , CO , CT , ID , IL , IA , KS , ME , MA , MI , MN , MO , MT , NE , NV , NM , NY , ND , OH , OK , SC , SD , TX , UT , WI , WY
Canada: AB , MB , ON , SK
Native Distribution: Western North American from southern Canada to southern Mexico. Western Ontario to Alberta, south through Illinois to western Missouri, Texas, and southern California, through much of Mexico.
Native Habitat: Dry prairies; plains. A dominant grass in dry shortgrass prairies. An understory grass in moister, mixed prairies.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, low organic content, gravelly soils or sandy loams, clays. Calcareous or granitic.
Conditions Comments: The most drought-tolerant native turf grass, more so than Buffalograss. Can survive with as little as 7 inches of rain annually. The drier it is, the less likely it will be to form a solid mat by rhizomes; it will stay in separate clumps. For this reason, it is often mixed with Buffalograss and/or wildflowers for a solid cover. The taller you let it grow, the less water it will need, because its roots will be shaded.


Use Ornamental: Shortgrass meadow, accent, perennial garden, turf
Use Wildlife: Graze, Seeds-granivorous birds
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Skippers

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Bouteloua gracilis is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Garita Skipperling
(Oarisma garita)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Uncas Skipper
(Hesperia uncas)

Larval Host
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Pahaska Skipper
(Hesperia pahaska)

Larval Host
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Green Skipper
(Hesperia viridis)

Larval Host
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Rhesus Skipper
(Polites rhesus)

Larval Host
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Simius Roadside-Skipper
(Amblyscirtes simius)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2012-12-07