Controlled Spring Burn…Stimulating New Habitat of Wild Bluestem Grass

Much like the age old saying of “March comes in like a lion, and out like a lamb”, March is a  very critical time in making sure that all elements of the farm are ready for the spring season.  Especially when trying to create pristine habitat for many of the birds and animals found in the backwoods of Missouri..  One of the most important aspects is properly managing the different varietals of prairie grasses found on most Kansas City farmlands here in North America.  As any farmer knows, there is a plethora of Little Blue Stem and Big Blue Stem grasses that have forever dotted the prairie landscape of our wonderful state and are found commonly throughout the Great Plains.  But it is up to us to conserve it properly.

In order to regenerate new growth, both of these grasses require stimulation after a burn or “wild fire”.  But what usually gets overlooked is the important role that these grasses play within our prairie ecosystem.  Many of these grasses are critical for providing the habitat that most of the bird species found here in the plains require;  everything from song birds to wild Turkeys and Quail.  Both of these grasses can range anywhere from 3-9ft in length and provide the cover that most ground laying egg birds need in order to make their nests and shelter themselves from predators.  As well as providing a proper habitat for insects to dwell in which  in turn is a key food source many creatures found throughout the plains.

Big bluestem: (picture right)  Andropogon gerardi (or gerardii), known commonly as big bluestem, turkeyfoottall bluestem, and bluejoint, is a late successional grass found in prairie ecosystems. It grows in tall, dense stands that shade out other plant species. The stands grow until disturbance interrupts their spread. It is shade intolerant, but typically regrows after wildfire. (

Little Bluestem: (Picture Left)  Schizachyrium scoparium, commonly known as little bluestem or beard grass, is a North American Prairie Grass. It grows to a typical height of 3 feet. Although it has a blue tint in the spring, in fall, its predominant color is more red, which color it may retain throughout winter into spring. The plant prefers well-drained sunny sites. (

During a controlled burn it is extremely important to be aware of the current conditions such as wind, and also understand how the fire will move.  Most of these grasses will flame out after being ignited but require attention and planned execution and should not be conducted without proper supervision.   By helping the environment regenerate itself, all landowners will do their part in securing healthy habitats for generations to come and help sustain wildlife and our very valuable prairie ecosystems!

(Controlled burn executed at Drew Farms)

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