Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Walsh, Roberta A. 1994. Schizachyrium tenerum. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station,
Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available:
On 23 October 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS
from: little bluestem
to: slender little bluestem. Images were also added.
Andropogon tener (Nees) Kunth [13,21,22]
NRCS PLANT CODE:
slender little bluestem
The scientific name of slender little bluestem is
Schizachyrium tenerum Nees (Poaceae) [2,5,13,22].
There are no recognized infrataxa.
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
Slender little bluestem occurs along the Coastal Plain from North Carolina
across the Florida panhandle to east Texas. It occurs in the Piedmont
from North Carolina to Georgia. It also extends north from Texas to
southeastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas [21,26].
|Distribution of slender little bluestem in the conterminous United States and Puerto Rico. Maps courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database.
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, October 23] .
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
AL AR FL GA LA MS NC OK PR SC TX
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS:
14 Great Plains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
SAF COVER TYPES:
70 Longleaf pine
71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
85 Slash pine - hardwood
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES:
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var.
divergens) are the dominent bluestems in the longleaf pine (Pinus
palustris)/bluestem range type in Louisiana and to the west .
Slender little bluestem associates are listed for this range type in
south-central Louisiana include southern bayberry (Myrica cerifera),
shining sumac (Rhus copallina), American beautyberry (Callicarpa
americana), blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica), and broomsedge bluestem
(Andropogon virginicus) [6,7,8,9,15,18,37]. Associates in the
Washington Parish of eastern Louisiana include panicus (Panicum
aciculare), dwarf huckleberry (Gaylussacia dumosa), stiff sunflower
(Helianthus radula), and Elliott's bluestem (Andropogon elliottii) .
Associates for the West Gulf Coastal Plain in Louisiana in typic upland
longleaf pine savanna and xeric longleaf pine savanna/sandhill woodlands
barrens include St. John's-wort (Hypericum hypericoides), flameleaf
sumac (Rhus copallina), southern bayberry, American beautyberry, tree
sparkleberry (Vaccinium arboreum), dicanthelium (Dicanthelium
oligosanthes), splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon ternarius), aristolochia
(Aristolochia reticulata), pinkscale gayfeather (Liatris elegans),
pityopsis (Pityopsis graminifolia), and rhynchosia (Rhynchosia spp.).
In the same region associates of slender little bluestem are listed for
hillside seepage bogs and seepage slopes. These include xyris (Xyris
ambigua), eriocaulon (Eriocaulon decangulare), sweetbay (Magnolia
virginiana), gayfeather (Liatris pycnostachya), aletris (Aletris aurea),
evergreen bayberry (Myrica heterophylla), sundew (Drosera capillaris),
and pitcher-plant (Sarracenia alata). Associates in wetland longleaf
pine savanna include gayfeather (Liatris acidota), centella (Centella
asiatica), marshallia (Marshallia tenuifolia), bushmint (Hyptis alata),
arrowweed (Pluchea rosea), milkwort (Polygala ramosa), and rhexia
(Rhexia mariana) .
Associates are listed for pitcher-plant bogs in west-central Louisiana
and include sphagnum (Sphagnum spp.), beakrush (Rhynchospora rariflora),
tickseed (Coreopsis gladiata), dichanthelium (Dichanthelium spp.), large
gallberry (Ilex coriacea), and threeawn (Aristida spp.) .
Associates of slender little bluestem for pine (Pinus spp.)/wiregrass
(Aristida stricta) range on the lower Coastal Plain of southern Georgia
include Curtiss dropseed (sporobolus curtissii), wiregrass,
toothachegrass (Ctenium aromaticum), wireleaf dropseed (Sporobolus
teretifolius), creeping bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium var. stoloniferum), bushy
bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus), and lopside Indiangrass (Sorghastrum
Associates of slender little bluestem for dry prairies of extreme northwestern
Florida include bottlebrush three-awn (Aristida spiciformis), wiregrass,
arrowfeather (Aristida purpurascens), broomsedge bluestem, love grasses
(Eragrostis spp.), saw-palmetto (Serenoa repens), hurrahbush (Lyonia
lucida), and ground blueberry (Vaccinium myrsinites) .
An extensive list of species associated with slender little bluestem on the
Trinity River floodplain, east Texas, is available .
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Cattle graze slender little bluestem when it is young and tender. As
seedstalks form, palatability declines rapidly .
Slender little bluestem new growth is most palatable to cattle following a
fire, which retards slender little bluestem maturity and the development of
wiry unpalatable flower stalks . By June slender little bluestem in
central Louisiana is rank and unpalatable on unburned range. New growth
on range burned in May remains palatable .
In south-central Mississippi in early spring cattle readily grazed
slender little bluestem, preferring it to little bluestem (Schizachyrium
scoparium) and carpetgrass (Axonopus compressus). During late summer
and fall grazing of slender little bluestem was largely confined to areas where
grass had been kept short and maturity retarded .
Slender little bluestem was collected in north-central Texas and analyzed. At
an early growth stage it was fair in protein content and deficient in
both phosphoric acid and lime in comparison with other range grasses of
the area. At maturity it was deficient in both protein and phosphoric
acid, but had good lime content .
Chemical analysis of slender little bluestem dry material from burned and
unburned ungrazed plots in central Louisiana showed higher values from
burned than unburned plots for ash, crude protein, crude fat, calcium
oxide, and phosphorus pentoxide. Values were lower on burned plots for
crude fiber and nitrogen-free extract .
Slender little bluestem taken on May 1 from unburned plots on the lower Coastal
Plain in south-central Georgia had crude protein content of 3.5 percent;
protein content from burned plots was 8.5 percent. By full leaf stage
around June 15, samples from both treatments showed 4.5 percent protein
content. Values dropped concurrently for both treatments through
November. Phosphorus content was also lower on May 1 for unburned
plots, but by June 15 it was the same for both treatments; both dropped
after August 15. Calcium content was the same for both treatments
throughout testing. Cattle made greater weight gain on burned than on
unburned plots .
Slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem are inadequate for the nutritional
needs of cattle during the winter .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
OTHER USES AND VALUES:
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Close grazing and trampling tend to kill slender little bluestem and encourage
the spread of carpetgrass (Axonopus spp.) and weeds. Slender little bluestem
is also susceptible to smothering by litter, and in the absence of fire
decreases more on ungrazed areas than on moderately grazed pastures
Excessive grazing by cattle in central Louisiana on longleaf
pine/bluestem (principally slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem) range
converted the range under longleaf pine canopy to forbs and to
carpetgrass (Axonopus affinis) on patch cuts .
Moderate repeated close grazing can retard slender little bluestem maturation,
which prolongs the period of palatability and prevents the formation of
the wiry, persistent flower stalks .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Slender little bluestem is a native, warm-season, perennial bunchgrass .
Culms are slender, sometimes reclining, and 24 to 39 inches (60-100 cm)
long [21,26], the upper half sparingly branched . Leaves are wiry
and 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) long . The inflorescence is a single
slender raceme [21,26]. Spikelets are paired. The lemma of the sessile
fertile spikelet is awned. The fruit is a caryopsis .
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:
Slender little bluestem sprouts from perennating buds at the base of culms. It
also reproduces by seed [5,21,26].
Slender little bluestem occurs on prairies and in dry pine woods , second
growth pinelands, pine-hardwood sites, and sandhills .
Slender little bluestem in south-central Louisiana occurs on deep,
medium-textured silty loam  and also on predominantly sandy loam on
an upland site at elevations of 130 to 295 feet (40-90 m) . It
occurs on the West Gulf Coastal Plain in Louisiana on upland ridges of
well-drained to excessively drained sandy soil with frequent water
deficits and nutrient limitations; it occurs on hillside seepage bogs
with loamy sand, sandy loam, sandy peat, or shallow mucky peat soil with
poor nutrient availability; and it occurs on wetland longleaf pine
savanna of the outer Coastal Plain Terraces on imperfectly drained sand
based, somewhat calcareous soils . It also occurs in pitcher plant
bogs in west-central Louisiana on fine, slow-draining loam with pH
4.5 to 5.1 at elevations of 197 to 276 feet (60-84 m) [2,29].
In Pearl River County in south-central Mississippi slender little bluestem
occurs on fine sandy loam and loamy sand at elevations of 230 to 285
feet (70-87 m) [14,27,36].
Slender little bluestem on the lower Coastal Plain in south-central Georgia
occurs in flatwood second-growth longleaf pine-slash pine (Pinus
elliottii) forest on coastal terrace made up of marine sand 8 to 10 feet
(2.4-3.0 m) thick. Soil is low-fertility, loamy fine sand and sand to a
depth of 40 inches (100 cm). Elevation is 290 feet (88 m) .
Slender little bluestem in extreme northwestern Florida occurs on acidic,
nutient-poor quartz sands which are low in minerals and clay nutrients.
Organic content of soils is generally low. There is a high degree of
leaching, and extreme fluctuations of the water table occur .
Slender little bluestem is not as shade tolerant as many associated grasses,
particularly pinehill bluestem .
Slender little bluestem decreases in abundance when it is covered by plant
litter, including its own accumulated growth .
Slender little bluestem growth starts in early spring and continues into summer
. It matures early, usually by mid-June . Seedheads can form by
mid-July; seed shatter occurs soon after seed maturation. In fall and
winter foliage tangles and mats. Slender little bluestem tends to grow in
In the Florida panhandle slender little bluestem blooms from July to October .
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Slender little bluestem has basal culm buds  which sprout after aerial
portions are burned . If thick tufts form they may protect the
basal buds from fire damage. Slender little bluestem benefits when fire
removes accumulated litter and mulch.
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find Fire Regimes".
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY:
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Slender little bluestem culms and leaves are killed by fire .
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Aboveground parts of slender little bluestem are killed by fire, but the
underground portions usually survive and produce new topgrowth as soon
as conditions are favorable .
Slender little bluestem in Georgia had higher seedstalk production on recently
burned than on unburned sites. Unburned plants produced 35 seed stalks
per square foot of vegetation; burned plants produced 112 stalks. At
anthesis slender little bluestem had a higher percentage of nitrogen on burned
than on unburned sites .
Slender little bluestem is suppressed by accumulating litter in unburned areas
. There is reduction in number of plants and plant vigor as slender
little bluestem is forced to grow through mulch to reach light . Slender
little bluestem tends to increase slightly in relative abundance when burned
annually or every 2 to 3 years. It may decrease slightly if burned
sites are moderately grazed. Slender little bluestem decreases under grazing
alone. Under both grazing and fire protection, slender little bluestem
relative abundance decreases considerably [20,36]. However, severe fire
can almost completely remove slender little bluestem  (see DISCUSSION AND
QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE).
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
With biennial burning slender little bluestem on longleaf pine/bluestem sites
in central Louisiana was dominant in the herbaceous layer; woody plants
had reduced growth. On an unburned control unit a dense overstory of
shrubs and trees with resulting heavy litter restricted slender little bluestem
growth to scattered canopy openings .
Productivity of slender little bluestem often increases with burn treatment.
South-central Mississippi longleaf pine savanna pasture which included
slender little bluestem was burned every January or February from 1924 to 1933.
A similar pasture was not burned. Half of each pasture was grazed from
approximately April 5 to November 8 each year. Percent total herbage
values of slender little bluestem for the first and last years reported were:
unburned grazed burned grazed
ungrazed unburned ungrazed burned
1924 39 35 39 25
1933 12 17 43 21
A plot that had been protected from fire and grazing for 8 years was
burned with a very hot fire in October. Slender little bluestem was almost
completely killed. A similar plot was burned in January when fire
temperature was less. Some bunches of slender little bluestem were killed,
but most survived .
In south-central Mississippi longleaf pine savanna, slender little bluestem
produced 1,206 pounds per acre per year green plant weight on land which
had not been burned or grazed for 8 years; on a similar plot burned
annually during winter or early spring but not grazed slender little bluestem
produced 6,957 pounds per acre . Plots in longleaf pine-slash
pine/bluestem range in southwestern Louisiana were burned annually,
biennially, or triennially in March or May, or were unburned. Cattle
were excluded from the plots. After 8 years of treatment slender
little bluestem herbage, measured in October, was highest on plots burned
annually in May and lowest on unburned plots. Slender little bluestem percent
of total herbage yield was as follows :
Fire Treatment Slender little bluestem
March Annual 39
March Biennial 22
March Triennial 11
May Annual 47
May Biennial 31
May Triennial 33
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
The longleaf pine-bluestem savanna of the southeastern United States
Coastal Plain, where slender little bluegrass is a dominant, is a fire
subclimax community which requires fire at relatively frequent intervals
to be maintained. When fire is excluded, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda),
slash pine, hardwood trees, and shrubs invade; slender little bluestem is
shaded out .
In the absence of fire in dense stands of longleaf pine on the
southeastern Coastal Plain, slender little bluestem is eliminated by pine
needle litter [20,36].
Burning increases slender little bluestem nutrient content and palatability.
Increases do not last more than a few months after spring burning.
However, this is usually the time when livestock and wildlife need extra
protein and minerals .
Rotational winter burning at 3-year intervals in longleaf pine/bluestem
range, combined with periodic tree thinning (to maintain 12 to 20 sq
m/ha longleaf pine basal area), can maintain productive forage
(including slender little bluestem) and provide concurrent production of wood
Three major studies on the effect of fire on slender little bluestem forage
have been done in south-central Louisiana:
A 6-year test of rotation burning to increase forage value during summer
and fall and to improve distribution of grazing by cattle was conducted
in south-central Louisiana. Slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem were
the principal grasses. A system of rotational burning was recommended
for longleaf pine/bluestem range for both cutover and timbered lands.
One-third of each area was burned in winter or early spring each year.
Low-intensity early March backfires were used in subunits with
regenerated pines to minimize damage to trees. Free-running early May
headfires were used on cutover land to destroy herbage after
palatability of normal spring growth started to decline. Wildfire
hazard in the forest was reduced, range vegetation and grazing
distribution were improved, litter was removed, undesired scrub
hardwoods were top-killed, and unpalatable perennials were curtailed.
Both types of sites were grazed by cattle. The heavy grazing of slender
little bluestem during the growing season following fire, when cattle
concentrated on freshly burned range, improved forage palatability and
nutritive content by retarding maturation. Cattle began concentrating
on newly burned range within 1 to 4 weeks of burning . The ensuing 2
years of lighter use restored slender little bluestem vigor [9,19]. Dry cows
and cows with calves gained weight throughout the growing season on
rotation-burned ranges; forage values on unburned ranges during summer
and fall were too low to sustain body weight [9,23].
In south-central Louisiana longleaf pine-bluestem range was subjected to
alternate burning rotations from 1967 to 1970. Dominant grasses were
slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem. One range was treated with a
single fire in late winter or early spring each year. The other range
was burned a third at a time during each year, one fire in winter (March
1), one in spring (May 1), and one in summer (July 1). Cattle grazed
the burned area of the annual winter-only fire almost continuously,
which maintained a supply of new palatable and nutritious growth as well
as if later burning had been done. A single winter fire, being simpler
and less expensive than spring and summer fires, is recommended for
forage management on forested or clearcut native range in longleaf
pine-bluegrass range .
Longleaf pine-bluestem range in south-central Louisiana was subjected to
burning or mowing and raking treatments. Dominant groundcover was
slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem. In 1962, four plots were burned
by headfire; four others were mowed to near ground level and residue was
raked and removed. The treatments were reapplied in 1963. Fire did not
stimulate early growth or increase nutrient content of slender little bluestem
more than did mowing and raking. Removal of litter by either treatment
appeared to be the major cause of improvement in the status of slender
little bluestem .
SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
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