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Botanical Art Worldwide: America's Flora

Big Bluestem Grass

Andropogon gerardii

I was born and raised in eastern Kansas and now live on the East Coast. But I have always and will always love the prairie and its native grasses. Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) is my favorite.

It is a mighty grass growing 6 -10 feet tall. The main roots extend 10 feet down into the ground. Bison grazed on it and cattle adore it. It’s nutritious and cattle love the taste of Big Bluestem so much that ranchers call the grass “cattle ice cream!”

This tall grass provided medicine to relieve fevers of Native American tribes and its strong stalks were used for building their homes. Songbirds and prairie chickens eat the seeds and myriad other animals find shelter in the tall stands.

Big Bluestem was dominant in the tall grass prairie that, at one time, extended from Kansas to Indiana and Texas to Canada. With its deep, deep roots it kept the prairie from blowing away. 

I like to think of this grass as a shy giant. It is not flashy and doesn’t scream at you “Look at me!” You have to look closely to see the beautiful frosty blue on the stem joints, the dark purple of the summer racines and the graceful way the blades curl and swirl.

It has an understated beauty – just like the prairie.


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Worldwide-MaloneV grass

Andropogon gerardii

Big Bluestem Grass

Watercolor on paper


©2017 Vicki Malone

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