Cane bluestem

  • Cane bluestem stand between barracks.
  • Cane bluestem seed heads.
  • Cane bluestem in July.

West Texas is home to several species of grass, including cane bluestem (or Bothriochloa barbinodis). Native to Texas, Cane bluestem is a perennial that can grow to be one to two feet tall. The stem terminates in a bearded, blueish-green growth; when dried, these leaves are reddish-yellow. A very special feature of this grass is that if you pick the bearded tip off the stem and rub it together in your hands, it smells like blueberries—or more specifically, fake blueberry cereal!

Cane bluestem is an example of bunchgrass, or grass that grows in clumps, and thrives in dry climates. Adapted for the desert, this grass can grow in areas with annual precipitation as low as 5 – 7”. This grass provides excellent cover and nesting material for grassland birds. It also serves as food for birds, rabbits, and other small rodents.

Imagine you could shrink to the size of a bird, rabbit, rodent, or insect and are walking through a clump of cane bluestem. Write a poem or a short story detailing your imaginary experience being surrounded by this grass. Think about how the plant might feel on your skin as you walk through it. What do you smell and what else do you see above, below, or beside you?