FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Buchloe dactyloides is a low growing perennial warm season grass. Plants have soft curly grayish-green foliage and abundant stolons. They form a dense sod that facilitates survival in harsh shortgrass prairie ecosystems. This grass also thrives in dry sunny landscapes where it serves as a useful native lawn grass.
HABITAT & HARDINESS: Buchloe dactyloides occurs in Manitoba and Saskatchewan south through the central plains states to Mexico. In the United States, the range extends from Wisconsin south to Louisiana and west to the high plains of Montana, Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona. Plants are usually found on clay soils in areas with low to moderate rainfall.
This grass is dominant in shortgrass prairies and less abundant in tall or intermediate prairies. Plants also occur in meadows, coastal prairies, pastures, savannas, roadsides or open oak-hickory, pine or pinyon-juniper forests.
Buchloe dactyloides is hardy from USDA Zones 3-9.
PLANT DESCRIPTION: Buchloe dactyloides is a low growing fine textured warm season grass. Plants hold soil with their vigorous fibrous roots and expand from creeping stolons.
Leaves are a soft gray-green or blue-green. They are linear with average 3-6” length and 1/8” width.
In summer green bur-like pistillate flowers are partly hidden among the leaves. The staminate flowers born on separate plants are comb-like and held above the foliage on slender upright stems.
After flowering this dioecious grass produces tan seed spikes if pistillate and staminate plants are in close proximity.
Plants attain a 3-10” height with 6-12” spread.
CULTURAL & MAINTENANCE NEEDS: Buchloe dactyloides prospers in sunny sites with dry or average soil. Plants prefer clay soils and are very tolerant of drought and alkaline pH.
After establishment this grass endures prescribed burns, extreme cold. mowing and grazing. Plants also tolerate high salinity, caliche, limestone and high elevations. This grass is intolerant of sandy soils and of heavy foot or vehicular traffic.
This trooper can be used like a turfgrass and regularly mowed to a regimented 2-3” height. If a more natural billowy look is preferred, buffalo grass lawns can be occasionally mown to 4-6”.
Plants require as little as 1½” of rain per month to stay green. If rainfall is less, the turf will temporarily go dormant.
LANDSCAPE USES: Buchloe dactyloides is a useful Groundcover that tolerates drought and provides Erosion Control. This species is appropriate for Water-wise Landscapes, Low Maintenance Plantings, Dry Meadows or Prairie Gardens, Roadsides, Wildlife Gardens and Restoration Projects. Buffalo Grass is sometimes planted alone or in conjunction with Bouteloua gracilis as a Lawn Alternative.
COMPANION & UNDERSTUDY PLANTS: Buchloe dactyloides pairs well with Asclepias verticillata, Eryngium yuccifolium, Monarda punctata, Solidago rigida or Schizachrium scoparium.
Bouteloua gracilis is similar in appearance and cultural needs and can be substituted in some situations or used as a companion.
TRIVIA: Buchloe dactyloides is a desirable forage grass that maintains high nutritional content through the growing season. Foliage is consumed by deer, bison and prairie dogs as well as livestock. Plants host the Green Skipper caterpillar and they offer cover for ground nesting birds.
Buchloe dactyloides has an abundance of tough wiry roots that can extend into the soil to a depth of 4-6’. In the prairie states, settlers used the dense sod of buffalo grass to build their sod houses.