Buffalo Grass

Buffalo grass is the true American grass and as the name implies it is native to the great plains where this grass provided feed for the immense herds of buffalo that once occupied this region of our country. It is also the turf that provided the building material for the sod homes constructed by the first settlers of the Great Plains.

Buffalo grass grows extremely well in the Great Plains of the United States from central Texas to Northern Montana. It is well adapted to survive prolonged drought and extreme temperatures. It is also well suited to areas that receive light to moderate use. One should be aware that this grass will experience deterioration if subjected to heavy use. The famous “dust bowl” of the 1930′s was created because of over grazing in the prairie region and the concomitant loss of ground cover.

This grass is the ideal choice for one who desire a native species that has developed genetic qualities that will insure vigorous growth and survival in a harsh environment. Buffalo grass is a fine leaved perennial that possesses a pleasing blue-green color. It requires minimal maintenance in the form of water or fertilizer. In fact, over watering may encourage other grasses or weeds to infiltrate into established buffalo grass turf. Buffalo grass does not do well in shady areas as one could expect of a grass that is native to the Great Plains.

Buffalo grass can be established through the use of seed, sod, sprigs or plugs. As with many other grasses, like bermuda grass and St Augustine grass, it spreads through the use of above ground runners called stolons. It does not possess any underground capability to spread. This inability to spread through underground runners called rhizomes means that buffalo grass will not threaten adjacent garden or flower beds or even more desirable grasses that may be contiguous to the buffalo grass.

Buffalo grass is generally low growing and reaches a maximum height of about 8-10 inches. It can be left to grow naturally in fields or mowed to a height of about two inches for lawns. Golf courses may mow to a height of about one inch for fairways and allowed to grow higher in areas designated as “rough”.

Low maintenance is the most significant advantage of buffalo grass. Minimal water, minimal fertilizer and minimal mowing is what might attract an individual to grow this grass in their fields or yards.

Comments

  1. My favorite thing about buffalograss is that it is a dioecious species…i.e. it is separate-sexed…hence one clump of the grass may be all male, or all female.
    Buffalograss planted from seed will be a mix of the sexes, however there are cultivars of buffalograss that are all female….such as ‘Legacy’ and ’609′…and there are some others besides.
    A great thing about these female cultivars (which need to be established as either plugs or as sod) is that they grow lower than male plants and thus need even less mowing…but the best part of all is that being female, they do not produce viable pollen….which makes them excellent choices for people who are allergic to grass pollens.

  2. This is my first year with Buffalo grass which has been chewed down by the
    rabbits. Will it come back, there is a lot of loose on top, should I rake it?

  3. Bob Oakley says:

    Where did you learn your history? Over grazing of buffalo grass had nothing to do with the dust bowl, and most of the Great Plains are covered with varieties of bluestem, not buffalo grass. The dust bowl of the 30′s was caused by tillage practices, not grazing. At the time, farmers plowed and tiled in straight lines and did not follow the contours of the land or use terraces. Additionally, they used the disc and harrow to the extreme, pulveerizing the soil to a fine dust. These practices along with an extended drought led to the dust bowl. With the fine soil, even when rain fell, it simply compacted the soil and simply ran off. The result was massive soil erosion and dust storms.

    The dust bowl ended and has not reoccured because of a change in farming techniques. Terraces and contour farming, planting of wind breaks, minimizing tillage, and keeping more crop residue on the land all keep more moisture in the soil and the soil in place. Thus, no more dust bowls!

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