Blue Grama (Gracilis)

The Blue Grama (Gracilis) is generally described as a perennial graminoid. This is native to the U.S. (United States) has its most active growth period in the summer and fall . The greatest bloom is usually observed in the early summer, with fruit and seed production starting in the summer and continuing until summer. Leaves are not retained year to year. The Blue Grama (Gracilis) has a moderate life span relative to most other plant species and a rapid growth rate. At maturity, the typical Blue Grama (Gracilis) will reach up to 1 foot high, with a maximum height at 20 years of 0 inches.

The Blue Grama (Gracilis) is easily found in nurseries, garden stores and other plant dealers and distributors. It can be propagated by seed. It has a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor. Note that cold stratification is not required for seed germination and the plant cannot survive exposure to temperatures below -38°F. has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions.

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Livestock: In southern states, blue grama grows as a bunchgrass; in northern states or areas of heavy grazing pressure, it is a sod former.

Erosion control: Blue grama is suitable for mixtures of grasses used in erosion control, low maintenance turf plantings, and surface mine revegetation.

General Characteristics

Bouteloua gracilis, blue grama, is a major warm season grass found throughout the Great Plains. The plant is fairly short, reaching 10 to 20 inches with narrow basal leaves of 3 to 6 inches. Blue grama grows in definite bunches and reproduces by tillering and by seed. Mature seed heads are curved, resembling a human eyebrow. Blue grama can be found growing in association with buffalograss, western wheatgrass, needlegrasses and in some areas the bluegrasses.

Required Growing Conditions

Blue grama demonstrates good drought, fair salinity, and moderate alkalinity tolerances. In its dormant state, it will also tolerate burning. Blue grama will not tolerate dense shade, flooding, a high water table, or acid soils.

Blue grama is distributed throughout the western United States.

Cultivation and Care

As with all native grasses, proper ground preparation is one of the most important considerations. The seedbed should be firm but not solid; cultivation to kill the roots of cool-season grasses is essential. Planting may be done by either drilling or broadcasting, with the seed being sown no more than 1/4 to 1/2 inches deep at a rate of 1 to 3 pounds PLS/acre. Seeding in late spring is recommended in the Great Plains; earlier seeding is recommended in areas further south. In the Southwest, seeding should be done during the period from June 15 to July 15. Mulching and irrigation is recommended on harsh sites. Soil tests should be made to test the soils for deficiencies. Blue grama will tolerate low-nutrient soils better than acidic conditions. Planting should be done by a native grass seed drill. In western areas plant blue grama in a sorghum cover crop, stubble, or in with the crop itself.

General Upkeep and Control

Once the grass is established, it is very palatable to livestock all year long. Since growing points are at or near the ground surface, the grass withstands fairly close grazing. For best yields, defer grazing during the growing season every 2 to 3 years. Blue grama cures well on stem, making it a good grass for grazing during the dormant season. Renovation of sodbound stands is also recommended. Weeds can be controlled by use of herbicides, mowing or controlled grazing.

Pests and Potential Problems There are no known serious pests of blue grama grass.

Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (and area of origin) Improved materials include the cultivars ‘Lovington’ (NM), ‘Hachita’ (NM), and ‘Alma’ (NM) and the selected class release Bad River Ecotype (SD). Seeds are available at most commercial seed sources.

Plant Basics
Category
Growth Rate Rapid
General Type Graminoid
Growth Period Summer, Fall
Growth Duration Perennial
Lifespan Moderate
Plant Nativity Native to U.S.
Commercial Availability Routinely Available
Physical Characteristics
Bloom Period Early Summer
Displays Fall Colors No
Shape/Growth Form Bunch
Drought Tolerance High
Shade Tolerance Intolerant
Height When Mature 1
Vegetative Spread None
Flower Color Yellow
Flower Conspicuousness No
Fruit/Seed Abundance High
Fruit/Seed Seasonality Summer Summer
Seed Spread Rate Slow
Gardening Characteristics
Propagations (Ways to Grow) Seed
Moisture Requirements Medium
Cold Stratification Required No
Minimum Temperature -38
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Toxic to Nearby Plants No
Toxic to Livestock No
After-Harvest Regrowth Rate Rapid
After-Harvest Resprout Ability No
Responds to Coppicing No
Growth Requirements
pH Range 6.6–8.4 pH
Precipitation Range 8–8 inches/yr
Planting Density 0–0 indiv./acre
Soil Textures Coarse, Fine, Medium
Soil Depth for Roots 16
Minimum Frost-Free Days 145 day(s)
Salinity Tolerance Medium
CaCO3 Tolerance Medium
Sustainability & Use
Leaf Retention No
Palatability High
Fire Resistant No
Causes Livestock Bloating None

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database, plants.usda.gov.
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA