Native Warm Season Grasses

There has been increased interest in establishing native warm season grasses (NWSG) and forbs as wildlife habitat. These grasses and forbs grow during the warmer months of the year as opposed to cool season grasses such as fescue and brome. Native wildlife is adapted to these grassland environments and will flourish in them when given the opportunity. They are productive and produce good quality forage when well managed.


Big Bluestem

A perennial bunch grass growing from 3 to 10 feet tall. The stem base turns to a blue-purple as it matures and it has deep roots that send out rhizomes creating a very strong sod. Big bluestem is a forage species for all classes of livestock. Crude protein content of 16-18% is maintained from May through August but drops below 6% in September and October. It is often cultivated as a pasture grass and for hay-making. It has high tolerance to drought and restricted water conditions but a slow ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have low vigor.


Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem is a perennial bunchgrass with many of the same characteristics as Big Bluestem, but with a height of 3 feet.



A tall, bunching sod-former, 3-8 ft. in height with broad blue-green blades and a large, plume-like, soft, golden-brown seed head. This grass is important to the tall-grass prairie and is a favorite food of grazing livestock. It is also hardy and can live through flooding and repeated fires. Look for it growing in pure stands in lowland areas.


Eastern Gamagrass

Eastern gamagrass produces the majority of its growth from mid-April through mid-September. It begins growing earlier in the spring than do the other native grasses such as big bluestem or switchgrass. Its growth throughout the summer makes this grass an excellent source of forage during the period of the year when cool-season grasses are relatively dormant. Individual grass clumps can reach a diameter of 4 feet with seed heads growing on culms 3 to 9 feet tall.


Sideoats Grama

A medium-size perennial bunchgrass, 15 to 30 inches tall, it is more palatable than many of the other grass species. It retains its color later in the fall and usually begins growth in the spring before other gramas. Sideoats grama cures well, and maintains a fairly high feeding value throughout the year.


Canada Wild Rye

A native perennial bunchgrass that grows to 4 feet and prefers moist sites. It has good seedling vigor and rapid spring growth that aids in easy establishment and ground cover. This grass also has some shade tolerance an can grow in sandy soil types. Matures in July and has a moderate ability to spread through seed production and the seedlings have high vigor.



A perennial sod-forming warm season grass that grows 3 to 5 feet tall. Switch grass is used primarily for soil conservation, forage production, and wildlife cover. It is being looked at as a biomass crop for ethanol, also. As a warm-season perennial grass, most of its growth occurs from late spring through early fall. With livestock it can be utilized by grazing or in hay production.