Big Blue-stem (Andropogon gerardii)
The king of native grasses with 3 fingered seed heads in August, and handsome gray to blue-green stems in spring turning to green in summer then to red in fall. Clump forming with excellent drought tolerance once established. Big blue stem was once the most abundant grass in North America. Now, corn crops occupy almost all the land that was previously Big Blue Stem prairie. It’s leaves and stems are a lovely orange in fall, and its clumping nature allows room for other plants to mix in with it.
The caterpillars of several skippers feed on the foliage. Like so many other grasses, Big Bluestem is an important food plant of many grasshoppers, as well as the Meadow Katydid and the Short-winged Meadow Katydid. Field Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, and Chipping Sparrow will, at times, eat the seed of Big Bluestem.
The selection ‘Black Hawk’ performs all the same ecological functions and is a striking dark color.