Plant Guide > Grasses > Beard Grass

Beard Grass


Andropogon scoparius Michx.

When the royal purple and gold of asters and goldenrod paint the waysides, and mark the turning toward harvest of the tide of midsummer, the Beard-grasses also appear as the vanguard of autumn and show the advancing season as surely as do the more brilliant flowers.

In every state, from coast to coast, these grasses grow, characteristic of dry, sandy soils, and easy of recognition. The species are looked upon with little favour in the East, but in Western pastures, on prairies and ranges, the Blue-stems, as these plants are locally called, yield a valued herbage.

Tufts of Beard-grass, the most common of the genus in Eastern States, are frequently seen by waysides, in sandy fields, and near the borders of dry woods. This grass, sometimes known as Indian Grass or Little Blue-stem, is late in starting and the leaves, often tinged with red and bronze, are seldom noticeable until June.

In July the slender, rigidly erect stems appear, usually bluish purple in colour and at last fringed with small solitary spikes of hairy blossoms which hang to the winds their orange and terra-cotta anthers and purple stigmas. Not until September, however, is the plant in its greatest beauty, as the spikelets at maturity change to tiny silvery plumes adorning the ripened and richly coloured stems.

Beard Grass. Little Blue-stem. Andropogon scoparius Michx.

Perennial, usually tufted.

Stem 1-4 ft. tall, solid, slender, erect. Ligule less than 1" long. Leaves 4'-10' long, 1"-3" wide.

Spikes numerous, 1'-2' long, loosely flowered, solitary, terminal and along the stem. Spikelets in pairs on a hairy rachis, hairs dull white, conspicuous; 1 spikelet of each pair sessile, perfect, 1-flowered, about 3" long, bearing a twisted, bent awn 5"-7" long; the other spikelet of the pair sterile, borne on a hairy pedicel and reduced to an awnpointed scale. Stamens 1-3, anthers terra-cotta or yellow.

Dry soil. July to October.

New Brunswick to Alberta, south to Florida, Texas, and southern California.