Thursday, 9 February 2012

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama) Ornamental Grass

Bouteloua gracilis (Blue grama) October, 2011
Bouteloua (boo-tuh-LOO-ah) gracilis (grah-SIL-is) or Blue grama grass is sometimes called Gramma's Eyebrows or Mosquito grass.  It's flowers are all concentrated to one side of the flowering stem and held at a horizontal angle like an eyebrow or tiny brush.  A mature plant or grouping can resemble a swarm of flying insects.  Blue grama has fine leaves & stems with blue-green seed heads that change to a purple/brown and bleach to a straw color and often curl up as they dry.  Unfortunately, I only have late season photos to show you.  It's small size of 8 - 15 inches (20 - 38 cm.) in full flower makes it among the shortest of the native ornamental grasses.  This warm season grass is easily grown in a wide range of soils in Full Sun as long as they are well-drained.  Hardy to Zone 3, Blue grama is an excellent choice for rock gardens, naturalised areas, native plant gardens, and unmowed meadows especially where drought tolerant plants are needed.
Bouteloua gracilis at the Denver Botanic Gardens in October, 2011
Blue grama at the Denver Botanic Gardens in October of 2011
Blue grama at the Denver Botanic Gardens in October, 2011
Blue grama can be used for a no-mow ground cover and is often mixed with Buffalo grass and/or wildflowers and mowed occasionally to 2 - 4 in. (5 - 10 cm.) for a lawn.  You might not want to mow and miss out on the showy flowers.  Uncut meadows of blue grama are stunning backlit with the rising and setting of the sun!  It attracts Birds & Butterflies and is a Larval Host for Skippers.  It's seeds are eaten by granivorous birds.  We have blue grama in our meadow at Lovegrass Farm.  It was very common in the wild in the high desert area we visited in Colorado.  We found it to be much shorter in the wild and as can be seen in the above photo it is great to control erosion on slopes.
Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' at Denver Botanic Gardens
There are different seed strains available of Blue grama.  'Blonde Ambition' is a 2011 Plant Select Winner discovered by David Salmon; Chief Horticulturalist of High Country Gardens.  It is much taller than the common wild plant (2 1/2 to 3 ft.) (75 - 90 cm.). 

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