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Big bluestem


Family – Poaceae, grass family
Genus, species – Andropogon gerardii

Leaves are flat, long, with rough edges. Leaves start out bluish, then turn reddish-purple.

Flower has three spike-like projections, looks like a bird’s foot, usually purplish in color. Flowers are borne in pairs, one with a stalk and one without a stalk. Flowers are produced during late summer, August to October.

Roots are deep with large rhizomes.

More Information:

Big bluestem is also known as “turkey foot” or “turkey claw” because of the three-pronged appearance of its flowers.

Big bluestem may have been the most widespread and abundant grass in the prairies. It grows in tall and dense stands, preventing other grasses from growing around it by shading them out.

Big bluestem is the official state prairie grass of Illinois.


Andropogon comes from the Greek words, andro meaning "man" and pogon meaning "beard,"  referring to the fuzzy appearance of the seedhead.  The species name gerardii refers to the French botanist, L. Gerard (1733-1819), who was the first person to describe the plant.