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How to Identify Big Bluestem

Big Bluestem, Andropogon gerardii, is a native, warm season grass indicative of Illinois's tallgrass prairies. This robust bunchgrass often grows between five and eight feet tall. The stems of Big Bluestem are a bit flattened rather than perfectly round. The stems are yellow early in the season, turning  red in the late summer. The leaves of this grass can have some long hairs near their base, and there is a short, membranous ligule. 

Big Bluestem blooms in the summer producing a  turkey foot-shaped raceme inflorescence. The awned spikelets are held together in finger-like clusters. If you catch it in bloom, you can see the white stigmas and the yellow to reddish-brown anthers exerted, or pushed out, of the spikelets.

This video is part of the Grasses at a Glance series by Natural Resources, Environment, and Energy Educator Erin Garrett, University of Illinois Extension. Explore the playlist. Read our blog Grasses at a Glance.