Bouteloua curtipendula – Sideoats Grama (Su,DM,A,N)
12-36″ Tall x 12″ Spread, light green spiky leaves. Purple-red spikes form on one side of the stem from late June to early August. When blooming, orange stamens and feathery stigmas form from the spikelets.
- host plant for a number of butterflies and moths; seeds for birds
- Blooms: Mid Summer (Su)
- Moisture: Dry to Medium (DM)
- Soil Type: ALL: Sands, Loams, and Clays (A)
- Range: Native (N)
- Can tolerate some shade
- Started as: Seed 7-10 days
Considered a medium sized warm season grass, sideoats grama have seed heads that turn tan in late summer. They form bunches and spread slowly via rhizomes. The leaf blades are medium width and light green.
Propagation by seed and rhizome
You can sow in fall or spring (requires stratification). Plant with no more 1/4″ soil in fine soil or 3/4″ in coarse soils. Most seed germinates within 7 days under good field conditions. Seedling vigor is good when compared to other warm season grasses. I purchased seed from Prairie Moon nursery.
The grass can be mown but no shorter than 8″ if you have the bunching variety. Its recommended to be done no more than 2x a year (before June and after first frost). The lower growing rhizomatous variety can be mowed more often during the growing season and kept shorter.
Role in Ecosystem
This grass is food for larger animals during the growing season as well as a larval host plant for a number of skipper butterflies (Green, Dotted) as well as the veined ctenucha moth.
It provides food, nesting and cover for birds. Sideoats grama is sometimes seeded for game bird habitat improvement, and is recommended in grass mixes to provide cover for nesting lesser prairie-chickens [151,184]. Sideoats grama provides good cover for quail species  and is sometimes planted for scaled quail habitat improvement . It is also food for small mammals.
Its fibrous root systems establish quickly making it good for erosion control and to reduce soil temperatures and evaporation. Its also used in reclamation sites having been successfullly seeded on coal surfaced-mined lands and iron ore mine reclamations.
Habitat Types and Plant Communities
Sideoats grama is commonly associated with bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), true mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus), southwestern oaks, Colorado pinyon pine (Pinus edulis), and several juniper species including redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii), eastern redcedar (J. virginiana), oneseed juniper (J. monosperma), Ashe juniper (J. ashei), alligator juniper (J. deppeana), and Utah juniper (J. osteosperma) [112,117,165].
On the Range
Forage: Side-oats grama produces high quality, nutritious forage that is relished by all classes of livestock throughout the summer and fall, and it remains moderately palatable into winter. This makes it one of the most important range grass species.