Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)


As the result of efforts by fourth-grade students at Truman Elementary School in Rolla, Missouri, Big Bluestem was designated as Missouri’s official state grass in 2007. Big Bluestem is a key feature of Missouri’s tall grass prairies. Early settlers were impressed that this grass could grow tall enough to hide a person on horseback; it can grow up to 3 meters tall (9.8 feet)! The grass is topped with a set of three “spikelets” that are reminiscent of turkey footprints, thus lending the nickname “turkeyfoot” to this grass. The grass gets its common name from the blue-colored nodes on its stem (see photo below). It is also known to have an overall waxy blue appearance as well as purplish flowers.

The historically native prairies in Missouri used to cover roughly 1/3 of the state (23,000 square miles). Now there are only 75,000 acres (117 square miles) remaining. There are ongoing efforts by many local, state, federal and private agencies to reestablish prairies, and the Big Bluestem is a “big” part of those plans.

Big Bluestem is a hardy grass and relatively high in protein. It has become popular among farmers as a quality, native food source for cattle.


Revised Statutes of Missouri (RSMo)

§10.150. Big bluestem, official state grass. – 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)

approved 11 June 2007
effective 28 August 2007


Photo Gallery:

Click on an image below to enlarge and read a caption. This will open a new window in the Missouri State Symbols Flickr album.

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Additional Resources:

Search historic issues of the Missouri Conservationist on the Missouri Digital Heritage website.

The Missouri Department of Conservation State Documents Collection includes several publications on native grasses. View the publication finding aid online.


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