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Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama)
Crank, Elinor

Bouteloua gracilis

Bouteloua gracilis (Willd. ex Kunth) Lag. ex Griffiths

Blue grama

Poaceae (Grass Family)

Synonym(s): Bouteloua gracilis var. stricta, Bouteloua oligostachya, Chondrosum gracile, Chondrosum oligostachyum

USDA Symbol: bogr2

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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.

 

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

Distribution

USA: AZ , CA , CO , CT , IA , ID , IL , KS , MA , ME , MI , MN , MO , MT , ND , NE , NM , NV , NY , 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.

Benefit

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

Propagation

Propagation Material: Seeds
Description: Most easily propagated from seed (1/2-2 lbs. PLS per 1000 sq. ft.).
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: To maintain a solid cover, water sparingly once a week to once a month, depending on region. Can be mowed, but will need less water if left tall.

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
Learn more at BAMONA
Pahaska Skipper
(Hesperia pahaska)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Green Skipper
(Hesperia viridis)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Rhesus Skipper
(Polites rhesus)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Simius Roadside-Skipper
(Amblyscirtes simius)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Find Seed or Plants

Order seed of this species from Native American Seed and help support the Wildflower Center.

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

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From the National Suppliers Directory

According to the inventory provided by Associate Suppliers, this plant is available at the following locations:

Ohio Prairie Nursery - Hiram, OH
Far South Wholesale Nursery - Austin, TX

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is either on display or available from the following:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Sibley Nature Center - Midland, TX
Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR
* Available Online from Wildflower Center Store

Bibliography

Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright
Bibref 946 - Gardening with Prairie Plants: How to Create Beautiful Native Landscapes (2002) Wasowski, Sally
Bibref 995 - Native Landscaping from El Paso to L.A. (2000) Wasowski, S. and A. Wasowski
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
* The Midwestern Native Garden: Native Alternatives to Nonnative Flowers and Plants An Illustrated Guide (2011) Adelman, Charlotte and Schwartz, Bernard L.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter1989 VOL. 6, NO.4 - Spring Climbs Rockies Slowly, Colorado Cooler, Conference of Wildflower and Nati...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Bouteloua gracilis in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Bouteloua gracilis in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Bouteloua gracilis

Metadata

Record Last Modified: 2012-12-07
Research By: NPIS

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