A perennial, clump-forming, small, blue-gray, graceful grass, with flowering stems to 3 feet tall. It forms dense tufts of smooth, blue-green leaf blades, to 12 inches long and less than 1/4 inch wide with a thickened midvein. The nodes are purple-tinged and may be smooth or with short hairs. It blooms far earlier than our native bluestems. The inflorescence is silvery and reddish purple, with side branches that are shorter than the central stem (resembling a miniature version of Johnson grass, which blooms at the same time). Blooms late June through July.
Similar species: The similarly invasive yellow bluestem (Bothriochloa ischaemum) is larger and has yellow-green leaves that are usually smooth; the leaf sheaths are rounded and leaf blades flat or folded; nodes are either smooth or with short hairs. Although its inflorescence is similar to Caucasian bluestem, the length of the side branches exceeds the length of the central stem.