Old World Bluestem

old world bluestem grass

Scientific Name

Bothriochloa spp.

Short Description

Old World Bluestems consist of several species of introduced grasses that have been used extensively in the Southern Great Plains for forage production.


Old World Bluestems include several species of perennial warm-season grasses introduced from Eastern Europe and Asia from as early as 1917.  Since that time more introductions have been made from Russia, India, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Turkey.  These various species are adapted to a wide variety of soils but prefer clay loam and loam soils.  They are very drought and cold tolerant, disease resistant, insect resistant and very palatable to livestock. The main advantage the Old World Bluestems have over most all native grasses is their exceptional tolerance to close repetitive grazing.  They respond well to commercial fertilizers and produce high yields of good quality forage when managed intensively.  Old World Bluestems range from prostrate to erect growth habits.  When not heavily grazed they produce a prolific number of seed heads with light chaffy seed that has the potential to be very invasive.

Taxonomy of Old World Bluestem

Kingdom Plantae
Subkingdom Tracheobionta
Superdivision Spermatophyta
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Lillosida
Subclass Commelinidae
Order Cyperales
Family Poaceae
Genus Bothriochloa

ischaemum (L.) Keng. : 'Plains', 'WW - Ironmaster', 'WW-Spar',
caucasica (Trin.) C.E. Hubb. : 'Caucasian'
bladhii (Retz.) : 'WW-B.Dahl'

Plant Characteristics of Old World Bluestems

Height 24 to 48 inches
Growth habit bunchgrass
Bloom period spring
Sun requirement full sun
Leaf foilage color green
Seeds per pound
Minimum soil temperature for germination 60 ºF
Soil pH range

6.0 to 8.0
WW-IronMaster pH (8.0)

Planting rate 2 PLS lbs/acre
Planting depth

¼ inch

Planting season spring to early summer

Uses Of Old World Bluestem


Old World Bluestems are used extensively for forage in the Southern Great Plains.  In general they respond well to fertilization, are drought and cold tolerant, withstand close grazing, and are palatable for cattle. Forage yields of as much as 6 tons of dry matter are capable with a intensive management and a strong soil fertility program.  This group of grasses is very aggressive and present the potential to be invasive into surrounding species.


Little benefit other than cover for some species of wildlife.

Soil Stabilization

Old World Bluestems were used extensively during the early Conservation Reserve Programs but most new plantings in the last 15 years have been predominantly native grasses.

Commercially Available Cultivars Of Old World Bluestems

'Plains' Bluestem  (released in 1972)  a composite of 30 similar looking accessions collected from six different countries.  The composite of so many different accessions enables it to be widely adapted across the Southern Great Plains.

'WW-Spar' (released in 1981) an original component of 'Plains'.  It has its origin in Pakistan and is more drought tolerant than the other lines making up 'Plains'.

'WW-Ironmaster' (released in 1987) was specifically selected based on its performance on iron-deficient soils typical of high pH soils.  It is adapted to soil pHs of 7.4 to 8.4 but is less productive than 'WW-Spar' and 'Plains'.

'Caucasian' Bluestem (introduced in 1929) has a higher degree of winter tolerance than the other cultivars and produces better tonnage under favorable conditions.  'Caucasian' does not perform as well under drought conditions..

'WW-B.Dahl' (jointly released in 1994 by Texas Tech, TAEX, and the Soil Conservation Service in 1994) the most recent release of Old World Bluestems and originated in India.  It is typically more productive, has broader leaves, slightly more palatable,, and matures later than other cultivars.  Cold tolerance is not as good as the other cultivars and best adapted to southern Oklahoma and Texas.

Old World Bluestem Seedling and Growth Guide

8 days after planting

18 days after planting                                                         28 days after planting

34 days after planting                                                             65 days after planting