Bothriochloa ischaemum

Scientific name

Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng

Subordinate taxa:
Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng var. ischaemum
Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng var. songarica (Rupr. ex Fisch. & C. A. Mey.) Celarier & J. R. Harlan


Amphilophis ischaemum (L.) Nash
Andropogon ischaemum L.
Andropogon ischaemum var. americanus Hack.
Andropogon ischaemum var. ischaemum
Andropogon ischaemum var. radicans (Lehm.) Hack.
Andropogon ischaemum var. songaricus Rupr. ex Fisch. & Meyen
Andropogon taiwanensis Ohwi


Family: Poaceae (alt. Gramineae) subfamily: Panicoideae tribe: Andropogoneae.

Common names

King Ranch bluestem, Texas yellow beardgrass, plains blue-stem, King Ranch blue-stem, Turkistan (Turkestan) blue-stem, yellow blue-stem (United States);  barbon, chiendent à balai, barbe-de-dieu, pied-de-poule, Andropogon Ischème, Bothriochloa Ischème

Morphological description

Perennial, with foliage from 30-80 cm and fertile culms from 1-1.5 m.  Plants usually caespitose (matted or tufted), occasionally stoloniferous or almost rhizomatous under close grazing or cutting.  Stems slender, erect (sometimes decumbent at the base), simple or sparingly branched, naked at the top, solid, grooved on one side, light green turning yellowish at maturity;  nodes brown-purple, glabrous (var. ischaemum) to bearded with short appressed hair (var. songarica).  Leaves glaucous, largely basal;  blades flat to folded, 5-25 cm long, 2-4.5 mm wide, glabrous, or scabrous to thinly pilose or with long, scattered hairs, particularly on the upper surface, near the collar;  ligule a fringed membrane 0.5-1.5 mm long.  Inflorescence a subdigitate, terminal panicle, purplish in colour, comprising (1) 2-10 racemes, each 2.5-9 cm long;  rachis and pedicels silky-ciliate with long, soft hairs.  Spikelets in pairs, one sessile and perfect (3-4.5 mm long, narrowly ovate, lower glumes hirsute below, with about 1 mm hairs, lacking a dorsal pit, giving rise to a geniculate, twisted awn, 9-17 mm long), and the other pedicellate, as large or slightly larger, and sterile.  1-1.2 million seed units (sessile spikelet + pedicellate spikelet + awn ) and about 3 million caryopses/kg.


Native to:
Africa:  Algeria.
Asia:  Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, China, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Russian Federation (Ciscaucasia, Dagestan, Altai), Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan.
South Asia:  Northern India, Nepal, Pakistan.
Europe:  Austria, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France (incl. Corsica), Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine (incl. Krym), Yugoslavia.
Often the dominant grass , growing in dry stony places, borders of fields and slopes on waste ground, roadsides, and in pastures.

Naturalised elsewhere, including North America.


Mostly used as permanent pasture, but can produce good hay.  Good for soil conservation and reseeding eroded soils, producing excellent ground cover, even on infertile soils, and possessing an extensive root system.


Soil requirements

Adapted to a well-drained sandy soils (not deep sands), loams and clays.  Prefers fine-textured, calcareous soils, and has some tolerance to low available iron.  Has some salt tolerance, growing naturally onto saline solonetz soils.



Annual rainfall over its natural distribution ranges from 350-500 mm, and it is naturalised in areas receiving up to 1,000 mm.  It is drought resistant, but has no tolerance of flooding.


Occurs naturally between about 35 and 50ºN in Asia and Europe, with outliers at about 24ºN in Taiwan.  Naturalised between about 30 and 38ºN in USA at c. 300 m asl and at 10ºN at 1,500-1,800 m asl in Costa Rica.  This distribution suggests best adapted to areas with an average annual temperature of between 10 and 17ºC, extending to about 20ºC in some cases.  Extremely cold winters are experienced over most of its distribution.


No information available.

Reproductive development

Flowers from June/July to September/October in the northern hemisphere.


First growth appears by late spring, but a major portion of the growth occurs in summer and autumn.  Tolerant of heavy grazing and can be grazed throughout the winter.



No data, but probably very tolerant of fire like the similar Bothriochloa bladhii subsp. glabra.



There is some post-harvest dormancy, so seed should be kept for 6-7 months before planting.  Establishes well from seed broadcast onto a good, clean, firm seedbed in early summer at 1-3 kg/ha, or up to 15 kg/ha if seed is cheap and a rapid cover is required.  This is a fluffy seed, so there may be benefit in hammer-milling to de-awn the seed, and pelleting to make it easier to pass through planting equipment.  The un-pelleted, de-awned seed is still "fluffy" and can be mixed with fertiliser before sowing through a drill or fertiliser spreader.  Surface sown seed should be covered lightly and the area rolled.  Excellent seedling vigour.


Although tolerant of low fertility, it responds well to fertiliser, and is normally sown with a light dressing of mixed fertiliser.  The average dry matter response is about 30 kg/kg N applied.  Dry matter yield, protein, and N uptake response to applied N are linear up to about 200 kg/ha N.

Compatibility (with other species)

No information available.

Companion species


No information available.

Pests and diseases

Generally free from insect damage and disease, although 'King Ranch' is susceptible to leaf rust.

Ability to spread

Volunteers readily from seed.

Weed potential

Listed as a weedy species in some areas.

Feeding value

Nutritive value


CP values of 7-10% in leafy growth, and about 5% in stemmy growth with IVDMD about 50% and P level of 0.08%.


Grazed fairly readily by cattle and sheep.


No toxicity has been reported.

Production potential

Dry matter

DM yields are mostly of the order of 2-5 t/ha/yr with little or no fertiliser N, and up to 10 t/ha with addition of 200 kg/ha N.

Animal production


Animal gains per hectare during the growing season are 4-8 times those from unimproved rangeland, largely due to increased carrying capacity.  In short-term trials, young steers gained 0.24-0.66 kg/day (average 0.45 kg/day) over a 10-week period.  Beef gain response to N fertilisation may result from higher forage production and higher forage quality.


An obligate pseudogamous apomict ;  2n = 40, 50, 60.

Seed production

Yields of pure live seed of usually range from 20-40 kg/ha.  Crops do not mature uniformly and harvesting is difficult due to fluffiness of the seed.  A light harvest is possible from the early summer crop, but the main crop is harvested in autumn.  Seed crops are best established in 60-90 cm rows.  Each crop should be preceded by a cleaning cut to 10-15 cm 6-8 weeks prior to harvest, accompanied by an application of 50-60 kg/ha N.  Lodging may result if crops are started too early or if excessive N is applied.

Herbicide effects

Susceptible to metsulfuron methyl and triasulfuron as a pre-emergent application, but tolerant as a post-emergent at 2-3 leaf stage.
Susceptible to imazapic as pre- and post-emergent.


  • Winter hardiness.
  • Palatability.
  • Stable ground cover.
  • Adapted to low fertility soils.



Other comments


Selected references

Celarier, R.P. (1957) The cyto-geography of the Bothriochloa ischaemum complex. II. Chromosome behaviour. Amer. J. Bot., 44, 729-738.
Celarier, R.P. and Harlan, J.R. (1957) Apomixis in Bothriochloa, Dichanthium and Capillipedium. Phytomorphology, 7, 93-102.
Celarier, R.P. and Harlan, J.R. (1958) The cytogeography of the Bothriochloa ischaemum complex. Gramineae. I. Taxonomy, and geographic distribution. J. Linn. Soc. (Bot.), 55, 755-760.
Christov, M.A. and Moskova, R. (1972) The apomixis and the polyembryony in Bothriochloa ischaemum L. (=Andropogon ischaemum (L.) Keng.) Genetika Selek., 5, 71-86. [Russ. or Bulg.; Eng. summ.]
Coleman, S.W., Taliaferro, C.M., Tyrl, R.J. 2004. Old World Bluestems. Warm Season Grasses. pp. 909-936.
Moskova, R. (1974) Ultrastructure of some pistil parts prior to flowering in Bothriochloa ischaemum L. Genetika Selek., 7, 460-470 [Bulg.; Eng. Summ.] [Biol. Abstr. 59 (1975) No. 68040.]
Moskova, R. (1975) Ultrastructure of Bothriochloa ischaemum L. cells degenerating in the process of ovule development. Fitologiya, Bulg., 3, 47-48. [Russ.; Eng. summ.]
Moskova, R. (1976) On the ultrastructure of Bothriochloa ischaemum , L.: endosperm and aleurone layer cells. Fitologiya, 4, 34-45. [Bulg.; Eng. summ.] [Biol. Abstr. 63, (1977) No.7070.]
Moskova, R.D. (1975) An electron microsopic study of the nucellus cells in Bothriochloa ischaemum L. Caryologia, 28, 295-300.

Internet links


Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng var. ischaemum


Country/date released


'El Kan'
USA Exact origin unknown, but thought to have come in with cattle or hay from Texas.  Moderately palatable bunchgrass of medium leafiness and forage production.  Easily established and spreads well from seed.  Adapted where annual precipitation is 380 mm or more.  Less productive than 'King Ranch' and other cultivars, but more winter-hardy in cooler environments.  Grows on sandy, medium-textured, and clay soils.  Used alone as summer pasture and for stabilisation of earth structures, diversions, and critical areas.
(PI 107017, A-1407, NSL 102252)
USA (1979) From Tajikistan, Turkestan.  An erect plant 200-1,500 mm tall tending to form large saucer-shaped clumps with stems curving upward from the perimeter.  More productive than 'Plains'.  Used for range reseeding, dryland pasture and revegetation of disturbed areas.
(PI 477958)
USA (1970) Composite of 30 morphologically similar lines from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, India, Turkey and Afghanistan.  Higher yielding and more resistant to foliar disease than 'King Ranch';  somewhat less productive but more palatable than Caucasian bluestem (B. bladhii (caucasica).  More winter-hardy than 'King Ranch'.  Used for forage .
'WW-Iron Master'
(PI 301535, WW-535)
USA (1987) Introduced from Afghanistan.  Later in maturity and more robust than other cultivars.  Selected for persistence, spring vigour, leafiness, and productivity on iron-deficient soils (less chlorosis than other cultivars).  High crude protein content.  Used to improve pasture and rangeland, for hay, and soil stabilisation.  Later maturity, more and larger cauline leaves, and a darker green leaf blade colour than 'WW-Spar', and more robust with higher leaf-to-stem ratio than 'Ganada'.
(PI 301573, WW-573)
USA (1982) Introduced from Pakistan, one of the original 30 accessions used to produce 'Plains'.  Selected for persistence, spring vigour, and drought tolerance, maintaining production longer into a drought cycle than other cultivars.  Used for grazing and hay , and for soil stabilisation.

Bothriochloa ischaemum (L.) Keng var. songarica


Country/date released


'King Ranch'
(T.O. 144, T-3487, PI 315673, PI 44096, PI 476987, BN-4419-60)
USA (1941) Probably from Amoy (Xiamen), Fujian, China (24.5ºN, 140 m asl, rainfall 1,180 mm).  Very vigorous, prostrate, forming dense sward;  seeds heavily and volunteers aggressively.  Adapted best to clay or rocky limestone.  Less productive than 'Plains' and less winter-hardy than 'El Kan'.  Considered a weed with little production value by many.  However, does persist under poor management, and has the benefit of providing erosion control.

Promising accessions


Promising accessions



None reported.