hairy grama
Bouteloua hirsuta Lag.

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Hairy grama is an attractive native grass similar in appearance to blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), but the two species can easily be distinguished from one another by examining the flowering branches. The branch projects out past the terminal flowers on hairy grama, while blue grama has flowers all the way to the tip of the branch. The native range of hairy grama extends from North Dakota and Minnesota south to Central Mexico. The species is not very common in Iowa, but is found occasionally on dry, sandy, or rocky prairies more frequently in the western part of the state than the eastern. In Iowa, hairy grama flowers from July to October. The seed of this species is commercially available, and it would be a good choice for use as an ornamental or as part of a native lawn mixture.

Etymology: The name Bouteloua is given in honor of the Spanish botanists Claudio (1774-1842) and Esteban (1776-1813) Boutelou y Soldevilla. Grasses of the genus Bouteloua are often referred to as grama grasses, from Latin gramen = grass. The specific epithet is from Latin hirsutus = hairy, referring to the hairs found on the leaves and glumes of this species.


Plants perennial, tufted, sometimes stoloniferous. Culms 15-75 cm. Leaves mostly basal, although frequently along the stem as well; sheaths glabrous to finely scabrous or short hairy; ligule of hairs 0.2-0.5 mm long; blades 2-16 cm long, 1-2 mm wide, flat to inrolled, with thickened margins, blister-based hairs scattered on the lower margins and often on both surfaces as well. Flowering heads 0.7-5 cm long, bearing 1-2 (-3) one-sided branches. Branches 1.5-3 cm long, persistent, straight or gently curved, with 20-50 tightly packed spikelets, tip extending 5-10 mm beyond the base of the terminal spikelets. Spikelets 5-6 mm long, green to dark purple, with 1 perfect floret and 1-2 rudimentary florets; disarticulation above the glumes. Glumes unequal, tapering or awn tipped; lower glumes 1.4-3.5 mm long; upper glumes 3-6 mm long, with blister-based hairs along the midvein; fertile lemmas 2-4.5 mm long, pubescent, 1-3 awned, central awn 0.2-2.5 mm; anthers cream or yellow; lower rudimentary floret 0.5-2.0 mm, bilobed, 3-awned, awns 2-4 (6) mm. Chromosome number 2n = 20, 40, 50, 60.


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