Missouri State Grass

Big Bluestem

Missouri State Grass: Big Bluestem

(Andropogon gerardii)

Adopted in 2007.

Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) was designated as Missouri's state grass on June 11, 2007 as a result of efforts by the Fourth Grade class at Truman Elementary School in Rolla. Big bluestem is native to Missouri and occurs throughout the state, with the exception of a few southeastern-most counties. It is a major component of Missouri's tallgrass prairies where it impressed the first explorers by sometimes growing tall enough to hide a person on horseback. The name "bluestem"comes from the bluish-green color of the leaves and stems that turn an attractive reddish-copper color in autumn. (RSMo 10.150).

Missouri State Prairie Grass: Big Bluestem

Missouri State Grass: Big Bluestem

Andropogon gerardii, commonly called big bluestem grass, is a tall, Missouri native, perennial, warm season grass that was the dominant grass of the tallgrass prairie which once covered large parts of the Midwest. It may be grown as an ornamental grass because of its attractive foliage which changes color seasonally, its good architectural height and its interesting flower/seed heads. It features an upright clump of stems with flattened leaves (to 2' long and 3/8" wide) which emerge gray to blue green in spring, mature to green with red tinges in summer and turn reddish bronze with lavender tones in autumn after frost. Flowering stems rise in late summer above the foliage clump bearing purplish 3-parted, finger-like flower clusters (to 4" long) purportedly resembling turkey feet (hence the additional common name of turkeyfoot grass for this species). Flowering stems bring total height of this grass to 4-8' tall (typically at the taller end in moist soils and the shorter end in dry soils).

Genus name comes from the Greek words aner or andros meaning man and pogon meaning beard in reference to the hairs on the spikelets of some species in the genus.


Easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Tolerant of a wide range of soils and growing conditions. Puts out lots of growth in moist, fertile soils, but is less apt to topple in dryish, infertile soils. Freely self-seeds in optimum growing conditions. This grass develops an extensive root system and is somewhat slow to establish, but, once established, has excellent drought tolerance and is easy to maintain. Cut stems to the ground in late winter before new shoots appear.

Missouri Revised Statutes

Chapter 10
State Emblems
Section 10.150

August 28, 2013

Big bluestem, official state grass.

10.150. The Missouri native grass (Andropogon gerardii) known as "Big Bluestem" is selected for, and shall be known as, the official grass of the state of Missouri.

(L. 2007 H.B. 680)

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Big Bluestem

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
     Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
    Subclass: Commelinidae -
Order: Cyperales -
Family: Poaceae - Grass family
Genus: Andropogon L. - bluestem
Species: Andropogon gerardii Vitman

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