Warm Season Grasses
The warm-season grasses originated in Africa, southeast Asia, and South America, and require warm temperatures for optimum growth. In general, they are not winter hardy, but can tolerate high temperatures and periods of drought.
In the humid southeastern regions of the United States, the warm-season perennial forage grasses provide high yields between early may and late August.
Warm season grasses are "bunch grasses" (grow in clumps) that develop most rapidly during summer when warm nights follow hot days. They include the native prairie species such as big blue-stem, little bluestem, Indiangrass, and switchgrass. To increase diversity and provide additional food and cover, many warm season grasses are mixed with native wildflowers such as bergernot, leadplant, coreopsis, aster, blazing star, black-eyed susan, and other coneflowers.
The native, perennial warm-season grasses have potential to produce good hay and pasture growth during the warm and dry mid- summer months. These grasses initiate growth in late April or early May, and produce 65 to 75 percent of their growth from mid- June to mid-August. Warm-season grasses produce well compared to cool-season grasses during the hot and dry weather of July and August, and on soils with low moisture holding capacity, low pH and low phosphorous levels.
Recently there has been increasing interest from the Midwest in several of the native perennial warm-season grasses for livestock forage. These include switchgrass, big bluestem, indiangrass, and eastern gamagrass.