Bowie and Cody grasses are drought-hardy prairie grasses. Both are cultivars of buffalograss, which is native to the Great Plains. Buffalograss has become a popular alternative to bluegrass because it uses less water. The North American plains are where you will find this sod growing wild. The area is characterized by hot, dry summers and cold, windy winters. The grass is adapted to prairie fires and will grow quickly after a fire. Its roots can spread 5 feet and the soil protects them from fire and freezing temperatures.
Buffalo grass is our only true native grass in the U.S. It fed the herds of buffalo that crossed the Great Plains and early pioneers used it to make sod houses. Only 10 inches high, it is a low-growing sod comprised of male and female plants. The grass roots best in clay soils with moderate rainfall. Modern uses include roadsides, parks, golf course roughs and cemeteries. It does not tolerate shade or heavy traffic. This sod prefers a dry ground and will need only intermittent watering and maintenance.
Cody grass was bred as a superior drought-tolerant sod. Additionally, it has a deep green color and fine leaf that greens up well in spring. The sod is tolerant in a wider range than Bowie grass. It has the ability to survive in north central, southern and southwest regions of the U.S. Its early fall dormancy allows it to survive and thrive in the more northern region. Cody keeps a low growth habit and requires little maintenance, making it a good choice for lawns, golf courses, parks, acreage, roadsides and medians.
Bowie grass carries the same drought tolerance and low water usage as Cody. It is a low-height grass, needing very little water. It was developed by the University of Nebraska from four clones and bred especially for turf quality. It provides superior summer density and has won awards as best turf seed. The color is lighter green than Cody grass and it has a fine leaf texture. Bowie grass is used as turf on golf courses, industrial sites, lawns and acreages.
Both grasses have been used as overseed options for fescues. The replacement buffalo grass uses 75 percent less water and is adaptive to both summer heat and cold winters. Turf type seed is greener than prairie grass, because it is selected to only contain female seed. It is the male seed that produces the seed heads that give the turf a patchy look and brown out. Bowie and Cody are both grown from seed and can grow anywhere in the U.S. except in the far north and southeast.
Modern science has allowed buffalograss to become home turf grass. This has brought the hardiness and resistance of native grass to the yard. Improved cultivars are extending the deep roots and low water requirements of the native grass. The minimal maintenance helps make it marketable to consumers and enhances the attractiveness of the conservation aspect of using these grasses.