4-panel image showing photos of different grasses. Panel 1: Corn growing in a field, with tassels at the tips. Panel 2: Detail of a sorghum inflorescence bearing red grains. Panel 3: Chinese silvergrass with a plumelike, off-white inflorescence at its tip. Panel 4: Detail of an inflorescence of mat grass with featherlike white stigmas protruding.

Tribe Andropogoneae (Bluestem Tribe/Sorghum Tribe)

Tribe Andropogoneae is commonly known as the Bluestem Tribe (named after Andropogon, the bluestem) or the Sorghum Tribe. This tribe includes about 90 genera and more than 1200 species divided among 14 subtribes. Grasses in this tribe are all C4 and primarily occur in the tropics and subtropics. They include the world's more important cereal crop, maize or corn (Zea mays), other important food crops like sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) and sugar cane (Saccharum officinarum), globally distributed weeds like cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica) and Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), ornamentals like Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinesis) and eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), fodder grasses like limpo grass (Hemarthria altissima), and biofuel crops like maize, sugar cane, and giant miscanthus (Miscanthus gigantea). They are also ecologically important, with grasses like kangaroo grass (Themeda) and tanglehead (Heteropogon) dominating tropical grasslands.

The goal of this section is to provide resources introducing Tribe Andropogoneae, including pages focusing on specific crop plants.

Header image: Grasses in Tribe Andropogoneae, left to right: Maize (Zea mays), sorghum (Sorghum bicolor), Chinese silvergrass (Miscanthus sinensis), and mat grass (Hemarthria uncinata). Photo credits (left to right): Carl Lewis (flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license); INRA, Jean Weber (flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license); nature_jacobke (iNaturalist, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license); Harry Rose (flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license). All images cropped and resized.

Tribe Andropogoneae and people

Photograph of a field of tall sorghum plants being machine-harvested. The photo sows a tractor with a harvesting attachment on the front and a wagon behind. A man in an enclosed cab operates the tactor. The sorghum plants are taller than the tractor.

Quick facts about other Andropogoneae

adlay (job's tears)

Photograph showing a detail of off-white adlay grains.
Learn more

Quick facts about adlay (Coix lacryma-jobi), a grass grown for grain and for decorative purposes.

Citronella & relatives

Photograph of bundles of lemongrass for sale at a supermarket. The photo shows bundles of lemongrass standing upright. The tops of the grass in each bundle are knotted. Labels on the sides of the bundles give the prices.
Learn more

Quick facts about essential oil-producing grasses in the genus Cymbopogon (citronella, lemongrass, and palmarosa).

Japanese stiltgrass

Learn more

Quick facts about Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum), a globally distributed weed.


Some of the content of Earth@Home: Grasses comes from The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Evolution of Maize, which was published online as a web resource. The citation for that original resource is:

Content and revisions are also included from a revised manuscript of the Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Evolution of Maize (Carlyn Buckler, Dhyan Palanichamy, and Andrielle Swaby, 2019). Additional content and revisions by Elizabeth J. Hermsen have been incorporated into the present website (2022-2023).

Acknowledgements: Kate Rowell contributed to background research on education and exhibits resources about maize and its relatives. 


Development of the Grasses part of Earth@Home is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (1822330) and by content developed during previous grants, NSF 0820619 and 1238014. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.