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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

During the summer, this grass forms an attractive soft turf that is grayish green, bluish green, or green. However, it dies down during the winter. Buffalo Grass resembles the shorter Bouteloua spp. (Grama grasses), including Bouteloua gracilis (Blue Grama) and Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy Grama). These short grasses produce floral spikes that are shaped like small combs or eyelashes. Unlike these Grama grasses, Buffalo Grass is dioecious, producing separate staminate (male) and pistillate (female) spikes on different plants. The short length of pistillate culms for Buffalo Grass is probably an adaptation to grazing by hoofed mammalian herbivores, as its large grains are less likely to be consumed and crushed by their chewing mouth parts.
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Description

This dioecious perennial grass has separate male (staminate) and female (pistillate) plants. There are also vegetative shoots without spikelets. The male plants are about 6-8" tall; they have unbranched culms with about 3-4 alternate leaves along the lower two-thirds of the culm. The culms are light green, glabrous, terete to somewhat flattened in cross-section, and mostly hidden by the sheaths. The leaf blades are up to 4" (10 cm.) long and 2.5 mm. across; they are grayish green, grayish blue, or dull green. In addition, these blades are sparsely hairy or minutely pubescent on both sides (upper & lower), and they are ascending to widely spreading. The open leaf sheaths are light grayish green or light green, longitudinally veined, and mostly hairless, except toward the apex. The nodes are swollen, light green, and glabrous; the culm is often purplish immediately above and below each node. At the junction of each sheath and blade, the ligule consists of a short tuft of curly white hairs. The vegetative characteristics of the female plants are similar to the male plants, except that their culms are much shorter. The culm of each male plant terminates in an inflorescence consisting of 2-3 staminate spikes. The typical staminate spike is about 8-15 mm. (1/3–2/3") in length and about 4 mm. across. Each of these spikes has about 6-12 spikelets that are arranged in 2 rows on one side of the floral stalk (the spike's rachis). Each staminate spikelet has a pair of glumes at its base and 2-3 lemmas that are arranged side-by-side. One glume is about 3.0 mm. in length, while the remaining glume and lemmas are about 4.0–4.5 mm. in length. The glumes and lemmas are linear-lanceolate in shape and hairless. They are initially light green, but become light tan and chaffy at maturity. Disarticulation of the spikelets is above the glumes. The short culm of each female plant terminates in a cluster of 2-3 pistillate spikelets that are joined together at the base. These spikelets are largely hidden by the leaf blades. The outer sides of each pistillate spikelet consist of a glume and a lemma that are joined together at the edges, forming an ovoid structure that contains the pistillate floret. The glume and lemma are similar in size and shape; they become swollen and rounded toward the middle and each one has 3 cleft lobes with pointed tips at its apex. The blooming period usually occurs during early to mid-summer. Each pistillate spikelet of a female plant produces a single large seed. The root system is fibrous and stoloniferous. In open areas, this grass readily spreads by its stolons to form a soft turf. Cultivation
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Buffalo Grass is a rare plant in the natural areas of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Some populations are thought to be native (particularly in central & NW Illinois), while other populations have been introduced. These introduced plants are either adventive from the Western states, or they have escaped from local lawns where Buffalo Grass has been used as a turf grass. Habitats include hill prairies, cemetery prairies, lawns, and barren waste areas. In dry areas, this grass helps to bind the soil and prevent erosion by wind or water. It is one of the dominant grasses of the shortgrass prairie in the Great Plains. Faunal Associations
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© John Hilty

Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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Occurrence in North America

     AZ  CO  ID  IA  KS  LA  MN  MO  MT  NE
     NM  ND  OK  SD  TX  VA  WY

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Buffalo grass is distributed from central Montana east to Minnesota and
south to eastern coastal Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, eastern Arizona,
and northern Mexico [48,53].  It is incidental in northern Idaho [95]
and Virginia [79].

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

    7  Lower Basin and Range
   10  Wyoming Basin
   11  Southern Rocky Mountains
   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont
   14  Great Plains
   15  Black Hills Uplift
   16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: dioecious, monoecious, perfect, warm-season

Buffalo grass is a warm-season, native perennial shortgrass [20].  It is
drought-, heat-, and cold-resistant [106].  Foliage is usually 2 to 5
inches (5-13 cm) high, though in the southern Great Plains foliage may
reach 12 inches (30 cm) [55,100].  Buffalo grass is usually dioecious.
Plants are occasionally monoecious, sometimes with perfect flowers
[48,49,54,61].  Flowerstalks are 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) tall [100].
The male inflorescence is a panicle; the female inflorescence consists
of short spikelets borne in burlike clusters, usually with two to four
spikelets per bur [48,104].

Buffalo grass sends out numerous, branching stolons [54,106];
occasionally it also produces rhizomes [85].  Roots are also numerous
and thoroughly occupy the soil [100].  The numerous stolons and roots
form a dense sod [54,106].  Buffalo grass roots are finer than those of
most plains grasses, being less than 1 mm in diameter.  Weaver [100]
found that in the Great Plains, buffalo grass roots in silty loam
reached 5 feet below ground, with 70 percent of roots (by weight)
occurring in the first 6 inches (15 cm) of soil.

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Description

Perennial, sward forming. Culms slender, erect, 5–25 cm tall. Leaf sheaths sparsely pilose; leaf blades 3–10(–20) cm, 1–2 mm wide, curling, pilose on both surfaces, apex filiform; ligule ca. 0.5 mm. Male racemes 1–4, stramineous, 5–15 × ca. 5 mm, scattered toward culm apex. Female inflorescence capitate, 6–9 × 3–4 mm; indurated upper (outer) glume whitish with green apical lobes; lemma ovate below, contracted toward green apical lobes, middle lobe much longer than laterals; palea broad, as long as lemma body. Fl. and fr. summer to autumn. 2n = 56, 60.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Sesleria dactyloides Nuttall, Gen. N. Amer. Pl. 1: 65. 1818; Bulbilis dactyloides (Nuttall) Rafinesque ex Kuntze; Calanthera dactyloides (Nuttall) Kunth ex Hooker; Casiostega dactyloides (Nuttall) E. Fournier.
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Type Information

Type collection for Bouteloua mutica Griseb. ex E. Fourn.
Catalog Number: US 3048117
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): J. G. Schaffner
Locality: E of Monserrat, Mexico, Central America
  • Type collection: Fournier, E. P. 1876. Bull. Soc. Roy. Bot. Belgique. 15: 471.
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Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Type fragment for Anthephora axilliflora Steud.
Catalog Number: US 865418A
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Card file verified by examination of alleged type specimen
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): -. Drummond
Year Collected: 1835
Locality: Texas, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Steudel, E. G. von. 1854. Syn. Pl. Glumac. 1: 111.
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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Buffalo Grass is a rare plant in the natural areas of Illinois (see Distribution Map). Some populations are thought to be native (particularly in central & NW Illinois), while other populations have been introduced. These introduced plants are either adventive from the Western states, or they have escaped from local lawns where Buffalo Grass has been used as a turf grass. Habitats include hill prairies, cemetery prairies, lawns, and barren waste areas. In dry areas, this grass helps to bind the soil and prevent erosion by wind or water. It is one of the dominant grasses of the shortgrass prairie in the Great Plains. Faunal Associations
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the term: codominant

Buffalo grass is codominant with blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) over
most of the shortgrass prairie [51].  It is a common component in
mixed-grass prairie [3,30], semidesert grassland of New Mexico [17], and
coastal prairie of Louisiana and Texas [33].  It is usually a minor
element in undisturbed tallgrass prairie [26,46].  Buffalo grass also
occurs in the understory of pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.),
mesquite (Prosopis spp.), and eastern ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa)
woodland [8], and in oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya spp.) savanna of the
Cross Timbers region of Texas [39].

Plant community classifications naming buffalo grass as a community
dominant are as follows:

A framework for plant community classification and conservation in
  Texas [33]
Remnant grassland vegetation and ecological affinities of the upper
  coastal prairie of Texas [34]
A vegetation classification system for New Mexico, U.S.A. [37]
Characteristics of major grassland types in western North Dakota [49]
Distribution and ecology of loess hill prairies in Atchison and Holt
  counties in northwestern Missouri [58]
A study of the vegetation of the sandhills of Nebraska [75]
Plant communities of Texas [91]
Analysis of grassland vegetation on selected key areas in southwestern
  North Dakota [109]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following Rangeland Cover Types (as classified by the Society for Range Management, SRM):

   412  Juniper-pinyon woodland
   504  Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
   505  Grama-tobosa shrub
   601  Bluestem prairie
   604  Bluestem-grama prairie
   605  Sandsage prairie
   606  Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
   607  Wheatgrass-needlegrass
   608  Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
   609  Wheatgrass-grama
   611  Blue grama-buffalo grass
   615  Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
   701  Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass
   703  Black grama-sideoats grama
   704  Blue grama-western wheatgrass
   705  Blue grama-galleta
   706  Blue grama-sideoats grama
   709  Bluestem-grama
   710  Bluestem prairie
   711  Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
   712  Galleta-alkali sacaton
   713  Grama-muhly-threeawn
   714  Grama-bluestem
   715  Grama-buffalo grass
   717  Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
   718  Mesquite-grama
   720  Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
   727  Mesquite-buffalo grass
   728  Mesquite-granjeno-acacia
   729  Mesquite
   732  Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
   733  Juniper-oak
   734  Mesquite-oak
   802  Missouri prairie

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

More info for the term: shrub

   K017  Black Hills pine forest
   K023  Juniper-pinyon woodland
   K031  Oak-juniper woodlands
   K044  Creosotebush-tarbush
   K053  Grama-galleta steppe
   K054  Grama-tobosa prairie
   K058  Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
   K059  Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
   K060  Mesquite savanna
   K061  Mesquite-acacia savanna
   K064  Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
   K065  Grama-buffalo grass
   K066  Wheatgrass-needlegrass
   K067  Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
   K068  Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass
   K069  Bluestem-grama prairie
   K074  Bluestem prairie
   K075  Nebraska Sandhills prairie
   K084  Cross Timbers
   K085  Mesquite-buffalo grass
   K087  Mesquite-oak savanna
   K096  Northeastern spruce-fir forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

   FRES15  Oak-hickory
   FRES21  Ponderosa pine
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES35  Pinyon-juniper
   FRES38  Plains grasslands
   FRES39  Prairie
   FRES40  Desert grasslands

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Habitat characteristics

Buffalo grass occurs on all soil textures [10,21].  It is most common on
clay, then fine-textured loam.  It is rare on sandy soils [10,81].
Soils supporting buffalo grass are usually alkaline [10,19,49], with a
high water-holding capacity (33-66%) [49].  Buffalo grass grows mostly
on dry uplands and/or disturbed sites in mixed- and tallgrass prairie
[3,48].  It grows best in regions of the Great Plains where annual
precipitation ranges between 12 and 25 inches (305 and 635 mm) [106].
It is widely adapted, however, to extremes in climate and elevation
[21,106].  Elevation at which buffalo grass occurs ranges from 2,000
feet (600 m) in Montana to 6,300 feet (1,890 m) in Wyoming [36].

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

    40  Post oak-blackjack oak
    66  Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
    68  Mesquite
   237  Interior ponderosa pine
   239  Pinyon-juniper
   242  Mesquite

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Habitat & Distribution

Cultivated in China [native to Mexico and the United States].
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Associations

Known predators

Buchloe dactyloides (buffalo grass (grass)) is prey of:
Bison
Pogonomyrmex
Calcarius mccownii

Based on studies in:
USA: California, Cabrillo Point (Grassland)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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General Ecology

Fire Management Implications

More info for the terms: cover, forbs

Spring prescribed burning increased buffalo grass cover within the
2-year study period, and reduced ponderosa pine cover.

Burning in mixed-grass prairie increased production of forbs and
warm-season grasses including buffalo grass.  Utilization of herbaceous
species by elk, deer, and bison was higher in burned than unburned
areas.  Of all the Park ungulates, bison used the burns most intensively,
with their use peaking in summer.  Prescribed burning did not, however,
increase the amount of forage available to bighorn sheep in late summer
and presumably, winter.

Mortality of ponderosa pine over the study area was approximately 50
percent.  Pine expansion into mixed-grass prairie was curtailed.

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Site Description

General:  Site description was not given in detail.  Aspect and slope
were variable.  Mean annual temperature at Custer, South Dakota (20 km
northwest), was 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 deg C).  Mean annual
precipitation was 18.4 inches (460 mm).  Annual precipitation at Custer
State Park was 14.9 inches (372 mm) in 1987 and 13.5 inches (337 mm) in
1988.

Burn days:  Peak temperature was 75 deg Fahrenheit (23 deg C) on 27
April 1987 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 deg C) on 28 April 1987.
Relative humidity ranged from 17 to 34 percent.  Winds were from the
south to southeast at 13 to 42 miles per hour (8-25 km/hr).  Fine fuel
moisture was approximately 5 percent.

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Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: cool-season, fireline intensity, headfire, prescribed fire

Fall burning in a shortgrass-mixed-grass transition zone of the Flint
Hills of Kansas reduced prairie threeawn (Aristida oligantha), an annual
grass with little to no forage value for livestock, and increased
relative abundance of the dominant perennial grasses, buffalo grass and
blue grama.  Percentages of total herbage production in fall, 1972, with
no burning, fall burning, and spring burning, were [72]:

            prairie threeawn     Perennial grasses     Western ragweed
            ----------------     ------------------     ---------------
unburned          73.7                  21.2                  5.0
spring (1)        84.0                  14.0                  2.0
fall (2)          13.7                  75.8                  7.0
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
1=burned 4 April 1972; 2=burned 8 November 1971  

April prescribed fire in mixed-grass prairie of southern Nebraska also
reduced nonnative, cool-season annuals and increased the native,
warm-season dominants, buffalo grass and blue grama [84].

There was no significant relationship between fireline intensity and
postfire response of buffalo grass after spring burning in western Texas
grassland.  High-intensity (approximately 5,570 kW/m) headfire did no
more damage to buffalo grass than low-intensity (approximately 70 kW/m)
headfire [83].

Buffalo grass mortality may be higher with backfires than headfires.
Being more slow-moving, backfires tend to generate more heat at ground
level [45].

Wright has provided prescriptions for burning buffalo grass in the
central and southern Great Plains [111], the Edwards Plateau [115] and
Rio Grande Plains [113,114] regions of Texas, and in chained
mesquite-tobosa communities [112].

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: cover, fire severity, prescribed fire, reburn, severity

Burning generally either favors buffalo grass or has no long-term effect
upon it [108,110].  In some studies, buffalo grass productivity is
unchanged or increases in the first postfire year [14,15].  Wright [110]
concluded from several studies that in western Texas, buffalo grass was
neither harmed nor favored by fire.  In southern Nebraska, April burning
of loess hill mixed-grass prairie had no significant (p=.1) effect on
buffalo grass cover the following June or September.  However, buffalo
grass cover on burn plots had increased significantly compared to
control plots by the second September after fire [84].

Fire had no long-term effect on buffalo grass at the Kansas Agricultural
Experimental Station.  Launchbaugh [63] reported that after a March
wildfire in shortgrass prairie there, buffalo grass cover at postfire
year 1 was reduced by 48 percent on burned areas as compared to adjacent
unburned areas; height at the end of the first growing season was 6.7
inches (17.0 cm) on burned sites and 11.9 inches (30.2 cm) on unburned
sites.  By postfire year 2, buffalo grass cover on burned sites was 39
percent less than on unburned sites, and by postfire year 3 there was no
significant difference in buffalo grass cover between burned and
unburned sites.

Buffalo grass recovery time may vary depending upon phenological stage,
season of burning, fire severity, and/or postfire weather conditions.
In a bluestem (Andropogon gerardii and Schizachyrium scoparium) pasture
in Kansas, buffalo grass declined under 10 years of early (20 March) and
late spring (1 May) annual burning compared to annual mid-spring (10
April) and no burning.  Buffalo grass basal cover (%) after 10 years was
[5]:
                             Spring Burning                   
                   ---------------------------------     
                   unburned  early    mid-     late     
                   2.21a     1.08b    2.65a    1.37a      
                   ---------------------------------
                   Percentages followed by the same letter
                   do not differ significantly (p less than 0.05).

Spring (April) prescribed burning in mixed-grass prairie in Badlands
National Park, South Dakota, favored buffalo grass.  Buffalo grass began
vegetative expansion and produced seed during the first growing season
after fire [107].  Compared to the control (no burn), buffalo grass
standing crop increased for 2 to 3 postfire years, then returned to
approximate prefire levels with onset of a drought [108].

Buffalo grass increased significantly (p=0.05) after various treatments
involving prescribed burning on the South Texas Plains-Texas Gulf
Prairie interface.  Burning was effected to reduce woody plant invasion.
Treatments were shredding, chopping, or scalping followed by prescribed
burning 2 years later, and a control (prescribed burning only).  All
prescribed burning was done in September 1965.  Percentage composition
of buffalo grass in July 1966 was [14]:

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Control       Shredded       Chopped       Scalped       Average
    -------       --------       -------       -------       -------
     U   B         U   B          U   B         U   B         U   B
     13  15        11  12         6   17        6   17        9   15
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
U=unburned; B=burned

Brush cover was significantly (p=0.05) reduced from prefire levels at
postfire year 1, although less than 15 percent of woody plants were
actually killed by the fire [14].

In another southern Texas study on the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife
Refuge, plots were subjected to a fall (September) fire, a winter
(December) fire, or a fall fire with a winter reburn the following year.
Burning was conducted in 1965 and 1966.  Buffalo grass production
(lb/acre) in August 1967 was [15]:

        Control          Fall          Winter          Fall & Winter
          355             330            315               401

April prescribed burning in cultivated buffalo grass in Kansas reduced
subsequent summer seed yield.  Unburned portions of the field produced
303 pounds of buffalo grass seed per acre compared to 79 pounds per acre
on the burned portion [27].

See the Research Project Summary, Effects of spring prescribed fire and
chaining on tobosa and buffalo grass communities in Lynn County, Texas
, for
additional information on buffalo grass response to prescribed fire and
other manipulations.

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Immediate Effect of Fire

More info for the term: wildfire

Buffalo grass is not completely consumed in most grassland fires.
Typically the upper part of the plant burns, and damage to basal
portions of the plant is uncommon [45,99].  With grassland fires, flames
fanned by even light winds seldom stay in one spot long enough to
produce high temperatures at the soil surface.  Fire intensities lethal
to native perennial grasses such as buffalo grass rarely, if ever, occur
during prescribed grassland fire [45].  Even with wildfires,
temperatures near perennating tissues at the soil surface are usually
not lethal.  Unburned stubble often remains after fire has passed, and
shallowly placed buds and seeds are unharmed [32 and references
therein].  Wildfire occurring during drought, however, may generate
temperatures high enough to kill buffalo grass perennating buds [32,45].
Lethal temperatures may also occur at the soil surface if woody plant
invasion into grassland has occurred.  Soil surface temperatures tend to
rise when woody plants burn, and elevated temperatures last for longer
periods of time [32].

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: caudex, ground residual colonizer

   Caudex, growing points in soil
   Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: litter, stolon

Fire was an essential component of presettlement prairie ecosystems
[6,18,76,82,99,116].  Prior to European settlement, buffalo grass
probably burned in all seasons [12].  Areas dominated by warm-season
grasses such as buffalo grass can carry fire even in winter and early
spring [12], and Native Americans apparently burned various portions of
the prairie year-round [7].

Buffalo grass survives grassland fire by several mechanisms.  Vegetative
regeneration is probably most important.  Basal meristems are generally
protected from grassland fire by soil and/or damp litter.  Some stolon
apices are usually protected by damp litter [107].  Buffalo grass
regenerates after fire by basal tillering and sprouting from unburned
stolon buds.  Recovery time greatly accelerates when plants become
vigorous enough to spread by stolons.  Buffalo grass also regenerates
from seed following fire [108].  Because it is enclosed in a bur,
buffalo grass seed is more protected from fire than seed of most grass
species.  Buffalo grass burs have been shown to greatly reduce fire and
heat damage to enclosed seed [76].  Regeneration from seed is slower
than vegetative regeneration, however, and is probably most important
when severe fire has killed a large proportion of stolon and basal buds.

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: forbs, natural, succession

Buffalo grass appears in early to mid-stage secondary succession [4].
Costello [28] described an old-field successional sequence in
north-central Colorado where the initial stage was dominated by annuals,
followed by perennial forbs.  Buffalo grass appeared after the perennial
forbs, 10 to 20 years after abandonment. 

Buffalo grass is common on disturbed sites such as prairie dog towns
[1,117].  In a pattern similar to old-field succession, buffalo grass
established after forbs and three-awns (Aristida spp.) but before
mid-grasses such as silver bluestem (Bothriochloa saccharoides) and
sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) on an abandoned black-tailed
praire dog town in Oklahoma tallgrass prairie [71].

Buffalo grass often establishes dominance in mixed-grass prairie with
drought or heavy grazing, and may invade tallgrass prairie under such
conditions [59,89].  Buffalo grass may not require disturbance in order
to maintain dominance on all sites, however.  It dominated fine-textured
clay soils in a remnant mixed-grass Kansas prairie that had not been
grazed or burned for 68 years [57].  Van Auken and Bush [97] found that
honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa) was unable to
invade high-density buffalo grasslands in Texas.

Buffalo grass is somewhat shade tolerant, but cannot tolerate dense
shade [10,106].

Clements [23] described buffalo grass-blue grama shortgrass prairie as
"proclimax:"  a community held indefinitely from reaching "climax
condition" by the natural disturbances of grazing and fire.

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: cover, density, dioecious, fresh, monoecious

Primarily dioecious, buffalo grass usually outcrosses by wind
pollination [77].  The monoecious sex form is more common in peripheral,
sparse populations, and monoecious plants may be self-fertile [56].  Seed
production on native grasslands in Kansas was greatest when
above-average rainfall occurred in May and June; seed production was
lowest when rainfall during that period was below average [27].  At
dispersal the entire bur, with seeds still inside, abscises from the
plant.  Burs usually disperse close to the parent plant; they cling only
briefly, if at all, to animals or clothing [76].  Fresh seed is usually
dormant, requiring abrasion or overwintering to break dormancy.  Degree
of dormancy, however, has been found to vary between populations [78].
Light is required for germination [43].  Ahring and Todd [2] found that
prechilling at 41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5-10 deg C), drying seeds
for 6 to 48 hours at 104 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (40-70 deg C), or
soaking seeds 1 to 72 hours in sodium hypochlorite greatly increased
germination.  Fulright and others [43] provide a summary of recommended
buffalo grass seed stratification regimes.  Reports of germinative
capacity of fresh seed that has been stratified and scarified range from
45 to 70 percent.  Seed has remained viable in the seedbank for at least
7 years [29].  Twenty-five-year-old seed recovered from the walls of an
abandoned sod house in Kansas was 15 to 78 percent viable [64].
Germination rates are usually better when seed remains within the bur
[76].

In a seedbank study on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Colorado,
buffalo grass seedling density in fine-textured soil samples gathered
over a 15-month sampling period averaged 112 plants per square meter
[25].  Seedlings grow rapidly under favorable conditions.  They have
produced stolons by 2 months of age.  By the end of their first summer,
seedlings grow a thick root mass that extends 2 feet (0.6 m) below
ground [100].

Vegetative reproduction through spreading stolons is rapid given
favorable environmental conditions [29].  Buffalo grass stolons have
grown as rapidly as 2.25 inches (5.72 cm) per day [69].  Buffalo grass
also spreads by tillering [106].  Following drought in western Kansas,
buffalo grass cover increased vegetatively from 2 percent in 1940 to 93
percent in 1943.  Buffalo grass has been reported to spread vegetatively
following depletion even when heavily grazed [101].  Although blue grama
is more drought resistant, buffalo grass usually recovers more quickly
after drought through vegetative reproduction [29].

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: hemicryptophyte

  
   Hemicryptophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: graminoid

Graminoid

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Season/Severity Classification

spring/variable

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Buffalo grass growth begins in late spring and continues through summer
[54,89].  In the Great Plains flowering occurs mostly from April to
June, but male plants may flower until late summer or fall [48].  Period
of heaviest flowering varies by location.  Flowering is reported from
July through August in eastern Colorado [35].  August flowering is also
reported from Kansas, with male plants beginning flowering slightly
before female plants [103].  Seed ripens from early summer to late fall,
depending upon location.  Early July seed ripening is reported from
Kansas [27].

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Buchloe dactyloides

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Buchloe dactyloides

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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Source: NatureServe

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the term: importance value

Buffalo grass is highly resistant to grazing [5,9,16].  It usually
increases under heavy grazing, especially at the expense of tallgrass
species [51,76].  Its response to grazing may vary by site, however.  On
the Central Plains Experimental Range in Colorado, Archer and Tieszen
[9] found that buffalo grass importance value increased with moderate to
heavy continuous grazing on ridges and midridges, but decreased with
such grazing on swales.  Importance value was low on all sites with
light grazing.  Buffalo grass responses to various other grazing regimes
are described [66,74,93].

Buffalo grass is highly drought resistant, although somewhat less so
than blue grama [89].

Buffalo grass seed is commercially available [43,81].  Guidelines for
seeding buffalo grass onto rangeland, or establishing it from cut sod,
are available [10,21,31,43]

Marcum and Engelke [65] provide field test results on buffalo grass
response to various pre- and postemergent herbicides.

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cover Value

Dittberner and Olson [36] rated the value of buffalo grass in providing
cover for wildlife as follows:

                         WY       ND

upland game birds       good     poor
small nongame birds     good     poor
small mammal cover      good     poor

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Nutritional Value

More info for the term: fresh

Nutritional value of fresh, mature buffalo grass in the United States
was [70]:

                   Percent
dry matter          48.9
ash                  6.1
crude fiber         13.0
digestible protein 
  cattle             2.9
  domestic sheep     2.9
  domestic goats     2.7
  horses             2.7
  rabbits            2.9

The National Academy of Sciences [70] also provides nutritional analyses
of fresh and cured buffalo grass in other phenological stages (immature,
dough stage, ripe, overripe), and for fresh buffalo grass-western
wheatgrass-bluestem (Grama spp.) mixes.  Energy (calories/kg) and
mineral analyses of buffalo grass are given.  Harlan [50] published a
nutritional analysis of buffalo grass seed.

Dittberner and Olson [36] rated buffalo grass fair in energy and protein
value.  They rated its nutritional value for wildlife in several states
as follows:

                      UT      CO      MT      ND

elk                   good    fair    poor    ----
mule deer             good    poor    poor    ----
white-tailed deer     ----    ----    ----    poor
pronghorn             good    ----    ----    poor
upland game birds     good    good    poor    poor
waterfowl             fair    ----    ----    ----
nongame birds         good    ----    poor    ----
small mammals         good    good    poor    ----

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Palatability

Palatability of buffalo grass has been rated good for cattle, domestic
sheep, and horses [36].  Reitz and Morris [81] rated it one of the most
palatable grasses in Montana.  Livestock utilization may vary by region
and year, however.  In a cattle utilization study in South Dakota
mixed-grass prairie, cattle selected several other graminoids over
buffalo grass even though buffalo grass was the most productive
graminoid on the study site [96].

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Other uses and values

Buffalo grass is planted for lawns [42,66,103] and used in hayfield
mixtures.  It is of limited use as a hay grass when planted alone,
however, due to its short stature [89].

The sod houses of early Great Plains settlers were constructed mostly
from buffalo grass [52].

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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

Buffalo grass sod is ranked superior in controlling erosion [100,106].
It has been ranked first among native grasses in controlling wind
erosion [10].  It is recommended for rehabilitating surface-mined lands
[92], and has been successfully established on bentonite [87] and coal
mine [98] spoils.

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Buffalo grass is one of the most important forage grasses of the
shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies.  All classes of livestock graze it
during all seasons [59].  The foliage is nutritious and palatable when
green, and its nutritional quality does not decline greatly as it cures
[52,68].

Buffalo grass is also important wildlife forage.  Wildlife consumers of
buffalo grass include white-tailed deer [22], bison [73], pronghorn,
black-tailed jackrabbit [38], and prairie dogs [24]. Buffalo grass is
especially important in bison [73] and black-tailed prairie dog diets
[24].  Bison in northeastern Colorado consumed it year-round, with mean
percent composition in their diet least in May (41%) and highest in
August (84%) [73].  Black-tailed prairie dog also use it year-round,
consuming all parts of the plant [13].  Annual black-tailed prairie dog
consumption of buffalo grass averaged 23 percent in western South
Dakota, peaking in June and July (34%) and reaching a low in December
(8%) [90].

Mountain plover nest on blue grama-buffalo grass flats in Colorado [47].

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Notes

Comments

This species (Buffalo Grass), from the western prairies of the United States, is a low, creeping grass that has been introduced into China for forage and as a lawn grass.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Bouteloua dactyloides is accepted by ITIS (as of June 2011) and PLANTS (as of June 2011).

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The currently accepted scientific name of buffalo grass is Buchloe
dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm. (Poaceae). There are no infrataxa. Buchloe
is a monotypic genus [48,53,60,61].

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Common Names

buffalo grass

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