Hikers may revel in the spring festival of wildflowers, but without the wild grass backgrounds, the canvas is incomplete. When seasonal flowers have lost their magic, wilted and died, wild grasses provide year-round beauty for all natural terrain. They also serve to prevent erosion, and they keep the soil loose, healthy and sometimes moister. Though much of the country's wild grasses have been plowed under, various parks and wildlife reserves still preserve the variety and beauty of these native plants.
Big Bluestem (Andropogon Gerardii)
The tallest of the bluestem grasses, big bluestem is a hardy perennial that grows in loamy or sandy soils. Because it grows in increasingly larger dense stands, it shades out other plant species but keeps the soil shaded and moist. Called a "sea of grass" by early settlers, it can be found all the way from Montana to the Corn Belt of the Midwest to Florida to Mexico. Also called prairie tallgrass, it is used for everything from erosion control to feeding livestock. It's considered an important component of the prairie for naturalists and ranchers because it has a high protein content and it is equally important to maintaining ecosystems in which native flora and faunas thrive.
Blue Grama (Bouteloua Gracilis)
Native to the prairie that lies in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains and the primary perennial grass in that area, blue grama grows in bunches from 6 to 18 or more inches tall. The plants have "flowers," which bloom in the summer and are crescent-shaped and have dozens of small, green spikelets. This grass likes full sun and well-drained soils and does well in semi-arid climates. Rather than die, it goes dormant when drought or cold weather arrive. Naturalists and ranchers alike appreciate this grass for its ability to stabilize soil and potential as forage. It survives grazing.
Bentgrass (Agrostis Pallens)
A perennial native that lives throughout California and British Columbia, Canada, bentgrass (or seashore bentgrass) is often difficult to find because aggressive, invasive grass species tend to dominate. So, it is a treat for a hiker to find this evergreen plant in open meadows and sub-alpine to lower woodland areas. It thrives in partial shade conditions, but flowers with tiny spikelets more often in full sun. It grows from 4 to 27 inches high and has leaves that are less than 2 inches long.