What is Bouteloua?

Vasanth S.

Bouteloua is a plant genus that is part of the Poaceae family. It contains about 40 species of annual and perennial grasses that are native to North and South America. These grasses typically grow in meadows and open grasslands. The majority of the species are drought tolerant and turn brown during the winter. Several types of butterflies and birds are attracted to this group of grasses.

Buffalo grass can withstand drought.
Buffalo grass can withstand drought.

This genus is named after Claudio Bouteloua, a Spanish horticulturist who lived from 1774-1842. The common name for the grasses in this genus is grama. Most of the species have variations of the common name. For example, Bouteloua curtipendula is known as sideoats grama, and Bouteloua gracilis is called blue grama. Bouteloua dactyloides is commonly referred to as buffalo grass.

Most of the species in this genus are distributed between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River in the United States. B. dactyloides is found from Manitoba and Saskatchewan in Canada, through the Great Plains in the US, and down to Puebla in Mexico. B. curtipendula has a similar range, but it extends into Central America and down into South America, as far south as Argentina.

B. dactyloides is used in North America as lawn grass. It is a perennial turf grass that features gray-green or blue-green grass. If left to grow unabated, it will reach a height of 12 inches (30 cm). The stems are thin, and the leaves are curled. This grass spreads through a rhizome, which is an underground stem from which roots extend into the soil.

The flowers on buffalo grass are usually yellow and form in spikes. The bloom season is generally from January to March and October to December. Butterflies are attracted to the flower, and birds use different parts of the grass as nesting material.

Buffalo grass is extremely drought resistant. When grown in loamy soil, it can survive on 1.5 inches (about 4 cm) of rainfall per month. Blue grama is even more drought resistant. It is usually mixed with buffalo grass in dryer regions.

Generally, well-draining soil that is composed of loam, clay, or limestone will provide adequate support for buffalo grass. The area in which the grass is planted should be exposed to direct sunlight. During the winter, the grass will become dormant.

Some problems associated with buffalo grass include rust and tar spot. Both are fungal diseases that cause discoloration of the leaves and stems. Applying fungicide to the grass can prevent the fungus from spreading.

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