Bluestem - Paintbrush Bluestem
Andropogon ternarius - Michaux
Poaceae (Grass) Family
Andropogon ternarius is a species of grass known by any of the common names above. It is native to the southeastern, east-central, and south-central parts of the United States, where it occurs from New Jersey south to Florida and west to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.
This perennial grass forms tufts of branching stems reaching 2.5 - 3.0 feet in height. The inflorescence is made up of pairs of feathery racemes, each of which contains pairs of spikelets. Each pair is made up of one fertile spikelet and one sterile. The fertile spikelet will have an awn. The spikelets are coated in very long, silvery hairs. In the Great Plains, the grass blooms in August through October. In the Carolinas blooming occurs in September and October and in Alabama the grass blooms in the fall. A variety of this species, the Florida endemic variety, is treated as a separate species known as A. cabanisii.
This grass grows in pine and oak forests and on prairies. It is dominant in the pine savanna and in disturbed habitat types such as grazed pastures, ditches, and abandoned crop fields. Old fields in the southern United States are often colonized with its broomsedge relative. In the ecological succession of abandoned fields in the region, the bluestem grasses grow after various annual and perennial weeds but before pines move in to shade them out.
Cattle graze on the grass. Northern bobwhite are known to nest in bunches of it.