Schizachyrium scoparium

Family:     Poaceae (Grass family)

Duration:  Perennial

Height:     up to 122 cm (up to 4 ft)

Blooming: Aug.-Sept.


Little Bluestem grass

Schizachyrium scoparium var. scoparium  (Michx.) Nash

Flowers: solitary feathery white spike-like inflorescences form along 3 inches nearly upright branches scattered along the stems in August.

Leaves: seedlings are clumped with very flat stems and short ligules and are often bluish purple at base.  The soft pale green leaves are up to .6 cm (.25 in) wide and 10 cm (4 in) long.  They are flat and often hairy at the base.

Sun:  Full sun

Ideal conditions: moist to dry soils in open to partially-shaded conditions

INPAWS Natural Communities: Prairie grassland (sun)

Seasonal Change: foliage becomes coppery-orange in the fall and tan in the winter.

Schizachyrium scoparium indiana
Schizachyrium scoparium indiana dunes

Comments: As a warm season grass, it spends its summer growing then flowering in late summer, early fall.​  It is an important species for foraging in the tall grass prairies of North America.  

Etymology: The genus Schizachyrium comes from the two Greek words schizo meaning, "split", and -achyron meaning, "chaff" due to the bilobed upper lemma.  The specific epithet comes from two Latin words; scopa meaning "twig, broom" and -aria meaning "pertaining to". 

Butterfly or moth host plant:  little bluestem are a larval host plant for dusted skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), Indian skipper (Hesperia sassacus), and crossline skipper (Polites origenes)

all photos by Nathanael Pilla

Landscape: little bluestem grass works great with your prairie plantings unlike some of the taller grasses.  The coloration in winter is brilliantly tan.  


Shirley, S. 1994. Restoring the Tallgrass Prairie. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Iowa. pp. 268-269.

Species Present and Native