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General: Desert wheatgrass is introduced from Asia. Within the crested wheatgrasses, three species are recognized: Fairway or crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), standard or desert wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum), and Siberian wheatgrass (Agropyron fragile). Fairway has short-broad spikes that taper at the top, smaller seeds, grows shorter, and has finer leaves and stems than standard wheatgrass. Standard has longer spikes than fairway, but vary in spike shape from comb-like to oblong. Fairway and standard grow from 1 to 3 feet tall with seed spikes 1.5 to 3 inches long. Spikelets flattened, closely overlapping, oriented at a slight angle on the rachis. The lemmas are linear-lanceolate narrowing to a short awn. Glumes are awl shaped and firm, and keeled. Culms are erect. Leaves are flat, smooth below, slightly scabrous (coarse) above and vary in width from 2 to 6 mm. Siberian is very similar to fairway and standard, but has finer leaves and stems, narrower and awnless glumes and lemmas, and the spikelets are more ascending, giving the spike a narrow, oblong, sub-cylindrical shape. Siberian is more drought tolerant and retains its greenness and palatability later into the summer than either standard or fairway types.


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USDA, NRCS, Idaho State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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