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A/K/A bluestem, Poaceae Family.
Dubbed the "monarch of the prairie", this native grass was once the dominant component of the American tallgrass prairie. It adapts easily to a wide range of soil and moisture conditions as long as full sun is provided. This long-lived grass has a variety of uses including screening, naturalizing, restoring prairies, and nesting materials for birds and mammals.
Andropogon is not a fussy grower. It will tolerate just about any soil or moisture level as long as full sun is provided. Lean to average soils are best, as too much fertility will cause the plants to be more open and weak in habit. It is very low maintenance and long lived once established.
For centuries, if not millennia, Andropogon gerardii, dominated America’s tallgrass prairies. It’s largely been replaced there by other grasses like Zea mays and Triticum aestivum, a.k.a. corn and wheat.
But “big bluestem” is adaptable. It found new homes. Tough and self-reliant, Andropogon became a go-to plant for reclaiming damaged soils. And thanks to modern breeding, it’s increasingly welcome as an ornamental, especially in gardens dedicated to indigenous plants.
The genus name Andropogon combines the Greek andros and pogon, or “man beard.” The “beard” is the hairlike threads on the flower spikelets.
The specific epithet A. gerardii honors Louis Gerard (1733-1819), French physician and botanist.