When someone mentions the Great Plains the first picture that comes to a person’s mind is that of grassy prairies rolling gently as far as the eye can see. Not many people know that the grass that would be found on the prairie would be the ubiquitous blue gama grass. The blue gama is, in fact, the native grass not only of both the long and short grass prairie but has a natural range extending from Alberta east to Manitoba and southward across the Rockies and Great Plains all the way to Mexico. The grass is hearty enough to thrive in a wide variety of climates and is an excellent food source for cattle and wildlife.
Blue gama is extremely drought tolerant, and due to its dense, shallow root system it is able to absorb even the slightest amount of rain that might fall. Due to the dense and shallow root system and the fact that the grass grows in bunches, forming open sod mats, the blue gama is also an excellent soil binder and is nearly unmatched at halting erosion once the grass becomes well established. The so called “dust bowl era” of the 1930’s would have been avoided completely if the blue gama on the prairies of the Midwest had not been removed for farming.
Blue gama usually grows to a maximum of six to twelve inches with flat pointed leaves which are between one and ten inches long and 1/8 inch wide. The flower stems grow up to eighteen inches tall and are topped by a flower consisting of twenty to ninety tiny spikelets between June and August. Though the Blue gama does reproduce with seeds its most important method of reproducing through vegetative reproduction via tillers. The blue gama grass is an excellent choice for those who desire a hearty, drought tolerant plant and is especially desired for those who prefer to use native grasses in naturalistic landscaping.