- Agriculture, Forestry & Soils
- Field crops, grasses, plant fibers, spices, tree crops, herbs
- Bluestem grass
Lewis, James K. Department of Animal Science, South Dakota State University, Brookings, South Dakota.
Last reviewed:December 2019
- Big bluestem
- Little bluestem
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
The common name often applied to several species of perennial grasses in the genera Andropogon, Dichanthium, Bothriochloa and Schizachyrium in the grass tribe Andropogoneae. The bluestems are medium to tall, warm-season, perennial grasses with basic chromosome numbers of 9 or 10 and they often exhibit polyploidy (the presence of three or more chromosome sets in a cell). Although asexual reproduction is common, reproduction is predominantly sexual and ecotypic variation occurs in wide-ranging species. Photosynthesis in the bluestem grasses, as well as in the entire grass tribe Andropogoneae, follows the C4 pathway characterized by high activity of the nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP)–malic enzyme, providing adaptation to environments with high light intensities and high temperatures during the growing season. Prescribed burning is an important management tool, especially in subhumid and humid regions. Because of the bluestems' long season of growth, which is closely synchronized with the rate of decomposition, these grasses usually compete successfully against cool-season grasses on soils that are low in fertility. The two most important forage species are big bluestem (A. gerardii) and little bluestem (S. scoparium). See also: Cyperales; Forage crops; Grass crops; Photosynthesis; Poales; Polyploidy
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