Blue grama

(Bouteloua gracilis (Kunth) Lag. ex Griffiths)




Synonyms
Chondrosum gracile Kunth
Description
Blue grama is a low-growing warm season perennial bunchgrass usually 6 to 12 inches tall. The grayish-green leaves of blue grama are fine, sometimes curled or inrolled and borne close to the ground. Cured, the leaves turn gray or straw yellow. Flowering July to October, the blue grama inflorescence is usually two comb-like spikes per culm, straight or lightly curved which remain attached to the seed stalk at maturity (when they are distinctly curved.) The rachis of blue grama does not extend beyond the terminal spikelet as in hairy grama.
Distribution and habitat
Native to the area, it occurs on open rocky slopes, plains, in forest openings and mountain meadows, mostly between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. It is found on sandy loam or gravelly soils, often associated with galleta. It flowers from July to September.
General information
Blue grama is one of our most valuable forage plants. The fine palatable leaves are low in fiber and high in protein when green. Blue grama cures well and may retain up to 50 per cent of its nutritive value when dormant. It is thus an excellent winter, as well as summer, feed. Under favorable conditions blue grama produces abundant forage, except in the higher mountains, where temperatures are low. Blue grama is very tolerant of heavy grazing and trampling. It has actually increased on many overgrazed ranges. Average recommended blue grama stubble height at termination of season-long sheep grazing is 1/2 inch. Although more palatable than many grasses that grow with it, blue grama may remain as the sole occupant of an area because of its ability to withstand heavy grazing. In spite of its ability to persist under heavy use, occasional grazing deferment during the growing season, moderate grazing, rotation, and proper distribution of grazing animals are good management practices for blue grama, just as for any other grass.