With its distinct spikelet tips that split from its stem like little turkey feet, Andropogon gerardi is the most prominent plant of America’s tallgrass plains. Of course, most people know it as big bluestem. Not to be confused with little bluestem, which we discussed last week, big bluestem is an entirely separate type of warm season bunchgrass.
As you might guess from its name, big bluestem grows tall, reaching heights of 8 feet. Meanwhile, its roots can grow as deep as 10 feet, giving this perennial a very strong base. True to its name, the stem of matured big bluestem is a blueish green, though it can shift to purple towards the top.
The tips of its stems split into thin spikelets that jut in different directions, earning the plant the name “turkeyfoot”. As with most warm season grasses, big bluestem is known to bloom in the summer and seed in the fall.
In addition to providing dense shelter for wildlife, big bluestem is a popular food source that’s rich in protein.
Advantages of Big Bluestem in CRP
One of big bluestem’s best assets is its erosion control. Due to it’s deep roots and thick coverage, big bluestem protects soil from the elements while helping maintain its structure. These features also make it great habitat for wildlife.
In addition to being a good food source for foraging animals, its generally favored by livestock over switchgrass.
When establishing big bluestem, weed control is critical. Though it’s durable once established, its seedlings are easily overpowered by competing weeds and plants. Strategic mowing and herbicide application must be performed to ensure success.
If you’re looking to buy CRP seed mixes featuring big bluestem, All Native Seed has you covered. Our seed has been reprocessed and we strive to have the highest purity and germination rates available. Click here to browse our custom seed mixes that we’ve spent 17 years developing and testing. If you already have a seed plan developed by NRCS, click here to get a quote.