Photo Credit
Photo courtesy of Sally and Andy Wasowski, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, www.wildflower.org.

Blue grama

Scientific name
Bouteloua gracilis
Also Known As
Mosquito grass, Navajita azul, Purple grama, Red grama, White grama
Plant Family
Plant Group
Blue grama grass has distinctive flowers clustered along branches of the flower stalks which dangle from the stem, often resembling a human eyebrow.
Identification Hints

Blue grama has distinctive flower s clustered along branches of the flower stalks (spikes) which dangle from the stem, often described as resembling a human eyebrow. You can distinguish blue grama from similar species by its hairless stems and spikelets that extend to the tips of each flower stalk branch.

Did You Know?

Blue grama is valued as forage, and for landscaping and erosion control. It is tolerant of grazing. Blue Grama flowers are also used in dried flower arrangements. Blue grama is readily established from seed, but depends more on vegetative reproduction via tillers. Seed production is slow, and depends on soil moisture and temperature. Seeds dispersed by wind only reach a few meters; farther distances are reached with insects, birds, and mammals as dispersal agents. Blue grama is the state grass of Colorado and New Mexico, and is listed as an endangered species in Illinois.

Leaves
The narrow basal leaves grow to about 3 to 6 in (8 to 15 cm) and are tapered at both ends. The upper surfaces of the leaves can have short hairs while the lower surfaces are generally smooth. Blue grama is green to grayish in appearance.
Flowers
The flowers are clustered in 2 to 5 spikes at the top of the stems. Spikelets hang from the flowering stalk with a short branchlet (pedicel) only on the lower side. There can be anywhere between 20 and 130 spikelets per branch. They are dry light brown to dark brownish-blue.
Fruits
The tiny, mature seed heads are curved, resembling a human eyebrow. It is readily established from seed, but depends more on vegetative reproduction via tillers.
Habitat
It is most commonly found from Alberta east to Manitoba and south across the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Midwest states to Mexico. Blue grama grows on a wide array of topographic positions, and in a range of well-drained soil types, from clay to sand. It is intolerant of wet sites, acid soils, or shaded sites.
Bloom Time
Leaves begin to grow from mid-April through June, depending on location. Flowering generally occurs in the summer (July to September). The fruit ripens and disperses from August to October, depending on location.
States
AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, IA, ID, IL, KS, MA, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, ND, NE, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, SC, SD, TX, UT, WI, WY