The warm-season prairie grasses are all in. They’ve been growing for weeks, but have reached their full stature and most are flowering. Grasses like big bluestem and indian grass can grow to anywhere from 3 to 11 feet tall. Since our prairie is a shortgrass prairie, the tall grasses are only 3 to 5 feet tall… with occasional grasses at 6 feet. I’ve seen tallgrass prairies with big bluestem and indian grass at 10 and 11 feet tall. Seeing and having to cross through this must have been impressive to the pioneers.
The side-oats grama grass was the first to flower and is starting to go to seed. Side-oats was followed by big bluestem, also know as turkey foot. (One look at big bluestem’s flower spike explains it all.) Last week indian grass, my favorite, started blooming. Now its showy flower spike can be seen throughout the prairie. It has even started to muscle its way into areas previously dominated by brome grass. (Brome grass is a Eurasian grass that we have been trying to eliminate from the prairie.) This represents progress since we have spread the seed after several burns, hoping for these results. Now little bluestem is starting to flower. Once dropseed blooms, all the warm season grass in the prairie will have bloomed for the season. As the grasses go to seed I love to collect handfuls and spread them as I walk. On my walk today I harvested a handful of side-oats grama and spread them in another part of the prairie.
While the grasses have beautiful and interesting flowers, the grass stalks are also beautiful in the colors between the joints. Indian grass is orange-red and yellow to green between the joints. Big bluestem is mahogany to green between the joints while little bluestem is mahogany to silver-blue.