August - Sideoats Gramma
University of Nebraska - Lincoln Extension Educator Nicole Stoner shares timely information about plants you might consider incorporating in your acreage landscape. Some provide food for people or wildlife, while others bring a snap of color or texture to your land. This month's plant gives you opportunities for wildlife food and shelter, as well as texture for you landscape.
When people live on an acreage, they tend to want their lawns to be more natural and less organized than city yards would be. That is the fun of living out of city limits - you can do what you want. A good way to have that naturalized look would be to grow a prairie on your acreage. Prairies are beautiful locations that not only give good aesthetic quality to your acreage but also provide habitat and food for wildlife. They give you a nice location for hikes on spring and fall days. One great plant to put into your prairie is Sideoats Grama.
Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) is a clump grass that would make a great addition to any prairie. This is a warm-season grass that emerges in the late spring to grow up to 18 inches in height and spread. The grass blades on Sideoats Grama are fine textured and are light-green to a bluish in color. The flowers on Sideoats Grama are very interesting and unique. The flowers emerge in June or July and develop mostly on one side of the plant. The seeds then develop where the flowers were and look like small oats held onto the side of the flower stalk, hence the name Sideoats Grama. The seeds will turn a straw color in the fall and stay on through most of the winter.
There are many varieties of Sideoats Grama to choose from when planting it in your prairie. According to Sharp Brothers Seed company from Kansas, Colorado, and Missouri, ‘Butte’ is a common variety that matures much earlier in the year, typically by mid-August. ‘El Reno’ is another variety that is grown more for its forage properties and disease resistance. ‘Pierre’ is another disease-resistant variety that tends to grow better on poor soils in droughty conditions than other varieties. ‘Trailway’ is a variety that produces seed very late into the growing season and is recommended for use on upland plantings in eastern and southern Nebraska.
Bouteloua curtipendula can survive in many types of environments. Given the right environments, Sideoats Grama can establish quite readily, however, if planted with a lot of other plants that are much taller than it, may fade out over time. The best environment for Sideoats Grama is full sun with more productive soils and where it does not set in water for long periods of time. Bouteloua curtipendula can tolerate very dry conditions and compacted urban soils.
According to Northern State University in South Dakota, Sideoats Grama is a good grass species to use in pasture areas. It is a desirable forage for livestock and will very easily move back in to bare spots that may have developed from overgrazing. This school also mentioned that after the drought in the 1930s, Sideoats Grama was the primary grass that came in to revegetate the bare soils.
In addition to being beautiful in your landscapes and prairie, Sideoats Gramma is a great forage for livestock. This particular grass species has been around the Nebraska area for a long time and helped us survive after the dust bowl in the 1930s. If you are looking for another grass to add to your prairie or one to put in your landscape, think of Sideoats Grama.