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SPECIES:  Schizachyrium tenerum
Slender little bluestem seedheads. Wikimedia Commons image by Jose Hernandez.


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: []. Revisions: 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.
ABBREVIATION: SCHTEN SYNONYMS: Andropogon tener (Nees) Kunth [13,21,22] NRCS PLANT CODE: SCTE5 COMMON NAMES: slender little bluestem TAXONOMY: The scientific name of slender little bluestem is Schizachyrium tenerum Nees (Poaceae) [2,5,13,22]. There are no recognized infrataxa. LIFE FORM: Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: 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] [35].
   FRES12  Longleaf - slash pine
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine

     AL  AR  FL  GA  LA  MS  NC  OK  PR SC  TX

   14  Great Plains

   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest
   K112  Southern mixed forest

    70  Longleaf pine
    71  Longleaf pine - scrub oak
    83  Longleaf pine - slash pine
    85  Slash pine - hardwood


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 [20].
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) [32].

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) [4].

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.) [2].

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
secundum) [27,28].

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) [1].

An extensive list of species associated with slender little bluestem on the
Trinity River floodplain, east Texas, is available [30].


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 [26]. PALATABILITY: 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 [26]. By June slender little bluestem in central Louisiana is rank and unpalatable on unburned range. New growth on range burned in May remains palatable [9]. 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 [36]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE: 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 [11]. 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 [36]. 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 [19]. Slender little bluestem and pinehill bluestem are inadequate for the nutritional needs of cattle during the winter [31]. COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES: NO-ENTRY 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 [36]. 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 [37]. 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 [7].


SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Slender little bluestem is a native, warm-season, perennial bunchgrass [26]. Culms are slender, sometimes reclining, and 24 to 39 inches (60-100 cm) long [21,26], the upper half sparingly branched [21]. Leaves are wiry and 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) long [26]. 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 [21]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Slender little bluestem sprouts from perennating buds at the base of culms. It also reproduces by seed [5,21,26]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Slender little bluestem occurs on prairies and in dry pine woods [21], second growth pinelands, pine-hardwood sites, and sandhills [5]. Slender little bluestem in south-central Louisiana occurs on deep, medium-textured silty loam [8] and also on predominantly sandy loam on an upland site at elevations of 130 to 295 feet (40-90 m) [6]. 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 [4]. 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) [19]. 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 [1]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Slender little bluestem is not as shade tolerant as many associated grasses, particularly pinehill bluestem [26]. Slender little bluestem decreases in abundance when it is covered by plant litter, including its own accumulated growth [8]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Slender little bluestem growth starts in early spring and continues into summer [26]. It matures early, usually by mid-June [7]. 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 colonies [26]. In the Florida panhandle slender little bluestem blooms from July to October [5].


SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Slender little bluestem has basal culm buds [21] which sprout after aerial portions are burned [19]. If thick tufts form they may protect the basal buds from fire damage. Slender little bluestem benefits when fire removes accumulated litter and mulch. FIRE REGIMES: 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: Tussock graminoid


SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Slender little bluestem culms and leaves are killed by fire [19]. 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 [19]. 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 [38]. Slender little bluestem is suppressed by accumulating litter in unburned areas [36]. There is reduction in number of plants and plant vigor as slender little bluestem is forced to grow through mulch to reach light [14]. 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 [36] (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 [6]. 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 [36]. 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 [14]. 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 [16]: Fire Treatment Slender little bluestem Percent Control 9 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 [24]. 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 [24]. 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 fiber [37]. 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 [9]. 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 [18]. 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 [17].


SPECIES: Schizachyrium tenerum
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Tallahassee, FL: Florida State University Press. 605 p. [13124] 6. Dobrowolski, J. P.; Blackburn, W. H.; Grelen, H. E. 1987. Sediment production from long-term burning of a longleaf pine-bluestem association. In: Pearson, Henry A.; Smeins, Fred E.; Thill, Ronald E., compilers. Ecological, physical, and socioeconomic relationships within southern National Forests: Proceedings of the southern evaluation project workshop; 1987 May 26-27; Long Beach, MS: Gen. Tech. Rep. SO-68. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station: 251-260. [12186] 7. Duvall, V. L. 1962. Burning and grazing increase herbage on slender bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 15: 14-16. [831] 8. Duvall, V. L.; Linnartz, N. E. 1967. Influences of grazing and fire on vegetation and soil of longleaf pine - bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 20: 241-247. [7623] 9. Duvall, V. L.; Whitaker, L. B. 1964. 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Effect of annual grass fires on organic matter and other constituents of virgin longleaf pine soils. Journal of Agricultural Research. 50(10): 809-824. [16896] 15. Grelen, Harold E. 1975. Vegetative response to twelve years of seasonal burning on a Louisiana longleaf pine site. Res. Note SO-192. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 4 p. [13842] 16. Grelen, Harold E. 1983. Comparison of seasons and frequencies of burning in a young slash pine plantation. Res. Pap. SO-185. New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station. 5 p. [10996] 17. Grelen, H. E.; Epps, E. A., Jr. 1967. Season of burning affects herbage quality and yield on pine-bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 20: 31-33. [13831] 18. Grelen, H. E.; Whitaker, L. B. 1973. Prescribed burning rotations on pine-bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 26(2): 152-153. [7625] 19. Halls, L. K.; Southwell, B. 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Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954] 23. Kayll, A. J. 1974. Use of fire in land management. In: Kozlowski, T. T.; Ahlgren, C. E., eds. Fire and ecosystems. New York: Academic Press: 483-511. [6870] 24. Komarek, E. V. 1974. Effects of fire on temperate forests and related ecosystems: southeastern United States. In: Kozlowski, T. T.; Ahlgren, C. E., eds. Fire and ecosystems. New York: Academic Press: 251-277. [10374] 25. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384] 26. Leithead, Horace L.; Yarlett, Lewis L.; Shiflet, Thomas N. 1971. 100 native forage grasses in 11 southern states. Agric. Handb. 389. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 216 p. [17551] 27. Lemon, Paul C. 1949. Successional responses of herbs in the longleaf-slash pine forest after fire. Ecology. 30(2): 135-145. [10133] 28. Lewis, C. E.; Lowrey, R. S.; Monson, W. G.; Knox, F. E. 1975. Seasonal trends in nutrients and cattle digestibility of forage on pine-wiregrass range. Journal of Animal Science. 41(1): 208-212. [13829] 29. MacRoberts, B. R.; MacRoberts, M. H. 1988. Floristic composition of two west Louisiana pitcher plant pogs. Phytologia. 65(3): 184-190. [10128] 30. Nixon, Elray S.; Willett, R. Larry. 1974. Vegetative analysis of the floodplain of the Trinity River, Texas. Contract No. DACW6-74-C-0030. Prepared for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Fort Worth District, Fort Worth, Texas. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]. 267 p. On file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [20420] 31. Pearson, H. A.; Whitaker, L. B. 1972. Thrice-weekly supplementation adequate for cows on pine-bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 25(4): 315-316. [22953] 32. Pessin, L. J. 1938. The effect of vegetation on the growth of longleaf pine seedlings. Ecological Monographs. 8(1): 119-149. [10329] 33. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843] 34. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 35. U.S. Department of Agriculture, NRCS. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262] 36. Wahlenberg, W. G.; Greene, S. W.; Reed, H. R. 1939. Effects of fire and cattle grazing on longleaf pine lands, as studied at McNeill, Mississippi. Tech. Bull. No. 683. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 52 p. [13795] 37. Wolters, Gale L. 1981. Timber thinning and prescribed burning as methods to increase herbage on grazed and protected longleaf pine ranges. Journal of Range Management. 34(6): 494-497. [9833] 38. Lemon, Paul C. 1967. Effects of fire on herbs of the southeastern United States and Africa. In: Proceedings, 6th annual Tall Timbers fire ecology conference; 1967 March 6-7; Tallahassee, FL. No. 6. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 112-127. [17416]

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