Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Bluestem Honored

Big bluestem

Life In Missouri... More About Trees and Plants...

Today, big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) was named the official Missouri State Grass.

4th grade teacher Christine Schmidgall and four successive classes of fourth graders in Rolla, MO, were instrumental in the naming. They worked with their state representative, lobbied the legislature, and even testified before a subcommittee. No wonder the governor came to their school to sign the bill into law.

“Big Bluestem has been here for 10,000 years,” said Schmidgall. “One of the neat things about it is that it grows nine to 12 feet above the ground, but its roots go 10 to 15 feet below and nourish the soil as they decay. Really, it’s incredible, and truly native to the state.”

Source: "Blunt Signs Big Bluestem Bill," by Kristen Jump,The Rolla Daily News, June 12, 2007

The Associated Press was less ecstatic about Missouri's new state grass. Perhaps they were trying to be more "fair and balanced" than the hometown newspaper of the teacher and kids who successfully lobbied for big bluestem.

According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Web site, big bluestem can be a "weedy and invasive" plant. But the agency also said the grass is good for livestock grazing, erosion control and also can provide a place for nesting by birds and other animals.

Source: "Big bluestem is now state’s official grass", by staff. Associated Press, June 12, 2007

The grassy topic of this post may be unpleasant to readers who are allergic to grass pollen. It's a rough time of the year for hay fever sufferers. I hope the clump of big bluestem at the top of this post doesn't make anyone sneeze or break out in hives.

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John Ruberry said...

It's our state grass:

Illinois State Prairie Grass -- Big Bluestem: On Aug. 31, 1989, Gov. Thompson signed into law a bill designating the Big Bluestem as Illinois' Official Prairie Grass. The Big Bluestem, named for the bluish purple cast of its stem, is the tallest prairie grass in Illinois.

Genevieve said...

Big bluestem was an important grass of the tallgrass prairie, so it's nice that it's being recognized -- even though there's not many places left with the original grasses.

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