Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Bushy Bluestem - Andropogon glomeratus   (Walter) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
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Section 5 » Order Cyperales » Family Poaceae
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Author(Walter) Britton, Sterns, & Poggenburg
DistributionCoastal Plain and lower Piedmont, disjunct to the low Mountains. The scarcity in the Piedmont is real. Note that we consider A. tenuispatheus a distinct species, based on research by Sorrie (2020).

MA to southwestern PA and KY, south to central FL and southern MS.
AbundanceFrequent to common in the Coastal Plain and Sandhills; uncommon in the lower Piedmont and the Mountains. Very rare to absent in much of the western half of the Piedmont.
HabitatMoist to wet seepage slopes, pitcher-plant bogs, montane bogs, wet pine savannas and flatwoods, streamhead ecotones, damp powerline clearings, wet roadside ditches. Essentially an obligate wetland Andropogon.
PhenologyFlowering and fruiting late August-October.
IdentificationBushy Bluestem is very distinctive, with its 1-4 "heads" of densely packed spikelets. The stems usually are 2-3 feet tall. Andropogon cretaceus is a taller plant (3-5 feet), with a much more elongated inflorescence, and its stem and leaves are glaucous or glaucescent (vs. plain green in A. glomeratus). In recent decades, botanists have split off A. tenuispatheus, which differs in several characters: taller stems (2.5-5 feet), many more "heads" (3-11), and shorter ligules (usually less than 1 mm long vs. usually greater than 1 mm long in A. glomeratus). The natural habitats of A. tenuispatheus are brackish marshes and maritime grasslands; but it has invaded roadsides and highway medians far inland and continues to expand its range.
Taxonomic CommentsFor rather recent splits from this species [Andropogon glomeratus], see A. cretaceus, A. hirsutior, and A. tenuispatheus. Note that many decades ago, when RAB (1968) was relied on by botanists in the state, even A. glomeratus was lumped within A. virginicus!

While the genus Andropogon is quite easy to recognize in the field, ID of species is not so easy and there are no shortcuts. Readers are strongly advised to read the introductory paragraphs in Weakley (2018) and to use his key. Once one has successfully keyed out several species, or compared collections with verified specimens, one can learn to recognize them in the field.
Other Common Name(s)Bushy Beardgrass
State RankS5
Global RankG5
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