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

 Native Plant Database

Schizachyrium scoparium

Little bluestem, Popotillo azul

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Schizachyrium scoparium (Little bluestem)
Strickland, Sam C.
Little false bluestem is a very ornamental bunchgrass with fine-textured foliage that forms very dense mounds18-24 in. in height. Slender, blue-green stems, appearing in August, reach 3 ft. by September and become radiant mahogany-red with white, shining seed tufts in the fall. Color remains nearly all winter. Perennial clumps grow up to a foot in diameter.

This mid-prairie species, also known as Bunchgrass, gets its name from the bluish color of the stem bases in the spring, but most striking is the plants reddish-tan color in fall, persisting through winter snows. In winter the seeds, fuzzy white at maturity, are of particular value to small birds. A related species, Big Bluestem or Turkeyfoot (Andropogon gerardii), has finger-like seed heads that somewhat resemble a turkeys foot. It reaches a height of 12 ft (3.6 m) in favorable bottomland sites and is also one of the Easts most important native prairie grasses.

Image Gallery:

51 photo(s) available

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Grass/Grass-like
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Venation: Parallel
Fruit Type: Caryopsis
Size Notes: 2-4
Leaf: Gray-Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Purple
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct , Nov , Dec


USA: AL , AZ , AR , CA , CO , CT , DE , FL , GA , HI , ID , IL , IN , IA , KS , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , MT , NE , NH , NJ , NM , NY , NC , ND , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , SD , TN , TX , UT , VT , VA , WA , WV , WI , WY , DC
Canada: AB , BC , MB , NB , NS , ON , SK
Native Distribution: Que. & ME to Alt. & ID, south through much of the US east of the Rockies, south to Tabasco in southeastern Mexico
Native Habitat: Woodlands edge, Opening, Hillsides, Slopes, Prairie, Plains, Meadows, Pastures, Savannahs

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Well-drained soil. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Little bluestem is wonderful planted en masse. The visual dynamics it provides range from blue-green in late summer to golden with cotton-tufted seedheads in winter. It readily reseeds so little bluestem is not recommended for small gardens. Little bluestem is tolerant of a wide range of soils but will not tolerate wetlands or sub-irrigated sites.


Use Ornamental: Fall conspicuous, Grows in clumps, Accent
Use Wildlife: Graze, Cover, Nesting material, Seeds-Small mammals, Seeds-granivorous birds.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Ottoe Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Cobweb butterfly, Dixie skipper
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Schizachyrium scoparium is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Dusted Skipper
(Atrytonopsis hianna)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Indian Skipper
(Hesperia sassacus)

Larval Host
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Crossline Skipper
(Polites origenes)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Ottoe Skipper
(Hesperia ottoe)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-12-08