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Little Bluestem - Schizachyrium scoparium

Little Bluestem - Schizachyrium scoparium

Schizachyrium socoparium, also known as Little Bluestem, is delighful in the spring when the colorful stems emerge, and even more so in the fall when the foliage fades to tan and the silvery seed heads sway in graceful plumes.

 

Little Bluestem is a perennial grass native to Michigan that reaches 3 feet tall.  This plant is not fussy. It thrives in full sun to partial shade, medium to dry soil and will grow in clay, loam or sand, and is resistant to deer foraging. It prefers poor dry soil and will tend to flop if the soil is too rich, fertilized, amended, or overwatered. Little Bluestem does its growing when it is warm, and prefers full sun.

 

This clump-forming grass stands up in the snow and provides excellent wildlife shelter year-round. Little Bluestem is an important host plant that supports various skipper butterfly larvae and other insects.  These insects can further support foraging birds such as chickadees.  In the fall, Bluestem seeds are eaten by songbirds and small mammals. In my observations, most of the seeds actually remain uneaten through the winter, but get cleaned up in the spring when hungry migrant birds return before the insects are hatched out.

 

Little Bluestem is recommended by the National Audoban Society for  Upper Peninsula birds, specifically Cardinals, Grosbeaks, Chickadees, Titmice, Crows, Jays, Finches, Mockingbirds, Thrashers, Nuthatches, Orioles, Sparrows, Thrushes, Vireos, Waxwings, Wood Warblers, Woodpeckers, and Wrens.

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