Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)
Sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) is a C4 perennial bunch grass. It is a mid-height grass with thin, long, simple leaves. It has a very distinct inflorescence: a zigzag stalk with evenly spaced spikes that typically hang to one side. Thus receiving its name “sideoats” because the inflorescence spikes will hang off one side of the stalk. Bouteloua curtipendula is a warm season plant that is blueish-green in the spring, and reddish-brown in the fall. B. curtipendula can be found in almost all areas of the United States, and it is the state grass of Texas.
Sideoats grama has a wide distribution in North America, ranging from southern Canada to Mexico and from the western US to the east coast. Sideoats grama is one of the most widely spread members of its genus.
|County distribution map of Bouteloua curtipendula. Find the color key here: http://www.bonap.org/MapKey.html|
Sideoats grama is found in a variety of habitats including dry woodlands, prairies and sandhills, and desert grasslands. It is an important species in prairies of the Great Plains and is one of the dominant species in mixed-grass prairies.
Morphology & Physiology
Bouteloua curtipendula is generally a bunch grass, but it can have a rhizomatous growth form on some occasions. It grows erect from its root and reaches an average height of three feet. B. curtipendula has its active growth period in the summer, with a moderate re-growth rate. It is not fire resistant. When the plant is mature it is a yellow color with inconspicuous flowers that are brown.
Bouteloua curtipendula is adapted to coarse, fine, and medium textured soils. B. curtipendula has a medium tolerance to calcium carbonate in soil. It has a medium fertility requirement for nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium required for normal growth and development. It has a medium drought tolerance. B. curtipendula’s ability to re-sprout and regrow from residual seed after a fire is low. B. curtipendula can handle a minimum pH of 5.5 and maximum of 8.5. It can survive on six inches of rainfall; the maximum amount of rainfall it can tolerate is 25 inches. The shallowest that its roots will grow is 12 inches, and it cannot tolerate shade. The lowest temperature that it can survive in is -43 °F.
Bouteloua curtipendula blooms the most in late spring, producing flowers that are pollinated by the wind. The awned seeds of sideoats grama are probably dispersed short distances by the wind. Sideoats grama seedlings grow faster than most other prairie species that have been studied and they are more tolerant of drought than many other warm-season grasses, perhaps because of their high root:shoot ratio.
Sideoats grama may reproduce asexually by producing rhizomes and tillers in some populations.
Bouteloua curtipendula is mainly used as animal fodder material, but it is also sometimes used as landscaping stock. Its medium protein content makes it moderately palatable for browse animals, and highly palatable for grazing animals.
Sideoats Grama in Texas
Ranching is one of the largest industries in Texas, which relies on its native grasses of the rangelands to nourish the livestock. Bouteloua curtipendula is an important plant for the ranching industry, and it can be found in most areas of the state because of its ability to survive in many different types of soils. All classes of livestock and wildlife forage on this plant because of its high quality of nutrients. It is one of the most attractive grasses and is extremely drought-resistant.
Bouteloua curtipendula is being used in the restoration of many eroded grasslands, and it is a great grass for all conservation purposes because it mixes well with other native grasses. Because of its beauty, forage value, and sustainability purposes, Bouteloua curtipendula was named the State Grass of Texas by the Texas Senate in 1971.
References and further reading
- Bouteloua curtipendula. USDA. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=BOCU
- Bouteloua curtipendula. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. http://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=BOCU
- Bouteloua curtipendula. http://www.bluestem.ca/bouteloua-curtipendula.htm
- Bouteloua curtipendula. http://www.waterwiseplants.utah.gov/?p=PlantInfo&Plant=286&Cart=
- “North American Wildland Plants” Second Edition, A Field Guide. Stubbendieck, Hatch, Bryan. 2003.
- “Remarkable Plants of Texas” First Edition. University of Texas Press. Turner, Matt Warnock, 2009.
- Sides-oats grama. http://www3.northern.edu/natsource/GRASSES/Sideoa1.htm
- Side Oats Grama. https://www.roundstoneseed.com/warm-season-grasses/side-oats-grama.asp
- Prairie Grasses. http://www.prairiefrontier.com/pages/prargras/prairegrs6-10.html
- Bouteloua curtipendula. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/graminoid/boucur/all.html
- Bouteloua curtipendula. http://eol.org/pages/1114814/overview
- Culturally Significant Plants. http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb1043638.pdf
This article was written by a student at Texas Tech University participating in the Encyclopedia of Earth's Student Science Communication Project. The project encourages students in undergraduate and graduate programs to write about timely scientific issues under close faculty guidance. All articles have been reviewed by internal EoE editors and by independent experts on each topic.