Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

General: Blue grama is a major warm season grass found throughout the Great Plains. It is found on the plains, prairies, and foothills of most western states. It is short (6 to 24 inches) stature and perennial with a prolific root system. This species has some phenotypic plasticity since in the southern states it grows normally as a bunch grass, but in the northern states and in the mountains, or in areas under heavy grazing pressure it is a sod former. Phenotypic plasticity is the ability of an organism to alter its physiology or morphology in response to changes in environmental conditions (Schlichting, 1986). Blue grama possesses the C-4 photosynthetic pathway for carbon fixation (Waller and Lewis, 1979).

Distribution: For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. Blue grama is a major species of the western Great Plains and southwestern United States. It is also found growing in Mexico and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Habitat: Blue grama is most effective when grown in the dryer parts of the northern and southern Great Plains and southwestern region of the U.S. It naturally grows in mixed stands, primarily with buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides), needle-and-thread ( Hesperostipa comata), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), and green needlegrass (Nassella viridula)in a short grass prairie setting.

It will be associated with other species such as prairie sandreed and sand sagebrush in a sandier habitat.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Distribution

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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Range Description

Chondrosum gracile is a densely caespitose perennial grass which is native from the USA and has naturalised in Canada, Mexico and Spain (Clayton et al. 2002, Veerloove 2004).
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© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

More info on this topic.

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):

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [39]:

4 Sierra Mountains

5 Columbia Plateau

6 Upper Basin and Range

7 Lower Basin and Range

8 Northern Rocky Mountains

9 Middle Rocky Mountains

10 Wyoming Basin

11 Southern Rocky Mountains

12 Colorado Plateau

13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont

14 Great Plains

15 Black Hills Uplift

16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
None
  • 39. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

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Occurrence in North America

AZCACOCTIDIL
IAKSMEMAMIMN
MOMTNENVNMNY
NDOHOKSCSDTX
UTWIWY


ABBCMBNTSK


MEXICO

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Blue grama occurs most commonly from Alberta east to Manitoba and south through the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Midwest States to Mexico [107,115,118,156,164,213,214,335]. Blue grama occurs uncommonly in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia [164,213], and in northeastern United States [213]. Though it is native to much of North America, blue grama is reported as an introduced species in Michigan [156]. The Plants Database provides a map of blue grama's distribution in the United States. 
  • 107. Cooper, H. W.; Smith, James E., Jr.; Atkins, M. D. 1957. Producing and harvesting grass seed in the Great Plains. Farmers' Bulletin 2112. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 30 p. [27329]
  • 115. Coupland, Robert T.; Brayshaw, T. Christopher. 1953. The fescue grassland in Saskatchewan. Ecology. 34(2): 386-405. [701]
  • 118. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 156. Garlitz, Russ; Garlitz, Deb. 1986. Bouteloua gracilis, a new grass to Michigan. The Michigan Botanist. 25(3): 123-124. [34927]
  • 164. Gould, Frank W. 1979. The genus Bouteloua (Poaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 66: 348-416. [5758]
  • 214. Kaul, Robert P.; Keeler, Kathleen H. 1980. Effects of grazing and juniper canopy closure on the prairie flora in Nebraska high-plains canyons. In: Kucera, Clair L., ed. Proceedings, 7th North American prairie conference; 1980 August 4-6; Springfield, MO. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri: 95-105. [2923]
  • 335. Stubbendieck, J.; Launchbaugh, John L.; Burzlaff, Donald F.; McCully, Wayne G. 1973. Stoloniferous blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 26(3): 230-231. [35017]
  • 213. Kartesz, John T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 1st ed. In: Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Botanical Garden (Producer). In cooperation with: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. [36715]

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Adaptation

Blue grama demonstrates good drought, fair salinity and moderate alkalinity tolerance. It grows well on soil types as varied as sandy to clayey in texture; however its growth is not as vigorous on true sands or clays. Blue grama is not tolerant of frequent flooding or submergence. It is also intolerant of shade and acidic soils. It is variably tolerant of fire and can be damaged if burned during active growth, especially under drought conditions. Blue grama grows at elevations of 3,500 feet up to 7,000 feet in New Mexico and has been reported growing at 10,000 feet. Forage production is best where annual precipitation is 12 to 14 inches and occurs during the warmest part of summer.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: cover, density, formation, rhizome, stolon, xeric

Blue grama is a densely tufted, native, perennial grass [47,55,112,118,131,160,164,167,171,365]. It may grow as a bunch grass [30,55,107,315] and form thick mats by tillering [118,167,171,184,208,365], frequently resulting in an open sod character [116,193,194,261,315]. Costello [110] contends that blue grama may assume a bunch grass form for a number of years, eventually assuming more of a turf character as the plant community becomes more closed. Others report that blue grama grows as a bunch grass in the south and is sod-forming in the north, at high elevations, and when closely grazed [316,355]. Radial advance of blue grama plants has been estimated at between 0.5 and 2 inches (1.3-5 cm) annually [265]. Where it forms a dense cover, blue grama is an important soil-building grass [118]. In the shortgrass prairie of the central and southern Great Plains, blue grama accounts for 75% to 90% of net primary production on most sites [101,109]. 

Blue grama patches may form ring patterns as blue grama develops a crown that is "pedastalled" on roots that extend 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1- 2 cm) above the soil. These roots are exposed to parasites and disease, resulting in loss of plant vigor and death of older plants at the center of patches [369].

Plant height at maturity ranges from 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) [131,193,240,274]. Blue grama leaves are flat and taper to a point [112], growing 1 to 10 inches (2.5-25 cm) long [7,47,188,261,349] and less than 1/8 inch (3 mm) wide [47,112,118,160,161,171,180,188,349], and persistent [118]. Blue grama is solid-stemmed [83], and the flowering stems generally grow 7 to 18 inches (17-46 cm) tall [112,161,188,240,241,349]. Each inflorescence usually has 2 branches or spikes that extend at sharp angles from the main stem and are ascending to spreading and curved at maturity [47,124,188,349]. Blue grama has 20 to 90 spikelets per spike [112,164,180,241]. 

Blue grama fibrous root systems [30,107,274,356] are dense [235] and shallow [34,56,91,356]. Reports on rhizome formation are conflicting, with some authors reporting rhizome formation [116,137,164,167,180,265] and others disputing that information [235]. Also unknown is whether or not stoloniferous ecotypes of blue grama exist as have been found in hairy grama, sideoats grama, and slender grama (Bouteloua repens) [335]. White [372] found that in a greenhouse study, stolon development in blue grama is not controlled by day length, temperature, or shade except as they affect growth. Most blue grama plants in this study developed stolons if water, fertilizer, and light were adequate for sustained growth. Blue grama roots are usually less than 0.04 inches (1 mm) in diameter and often diminish to 0.008 inches (0.2 mm) with increasing depth [116]. Roots of individual blue grama plants generally extend 12 to18 inches (30-46 cm) from the edge of the plant and 3 to 6 feet (0.9-1.8 m) deep [100,111,112,116,147,357]. Blue grama roots may penetrate deeper soil layers [111], and the maximum rooting depth of blue grama is approximately 6.5 feet (2 m) [82,110,116]. The density of blue grama root systems is attributed to abundance of branching; laterals are produced as frequently as 4.3 per inch (1.8 per cm) of main root in the upper 6 inches (15 cm) of soil. These laterals are up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length and branch to the 3rd order [116]. The greatest branching of blue grama roots occurs in the top 18 inches (46 cm) of soil [111]. Horizontal roots radiate in all directions from the base of blue grama stems, growing within 1.2 inches (3 cm) of the soil surface for up to 16 inches (40 cm). Lateral spreading of roots is more pronounced in mixed prairie vegetation than in the true prairie [112,356] and on more arid sites [116]. Because the majority of blue grama roots are in the upper soil layers [100,111,235,358], it can respond rapidly to small amounts of rainfall [100,128]. In less xeric situations, the surface roots develop at a deeper level or follow an oblique course. Deeply penetrating roots usually descend obliquely or vertically from their origin [116]. 

Blue grama is a C4 plant with high water use efficiency [14,16,108]. Water use efficiency is greater under warm climatic conditions and may decrease with increasing water availability [259].

The Flora of the Great Plains provides a morphological description and identification key for blue grama [167].

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  • 100. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1991. Effects of competition on spatial distribution of roots of blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 44(1): 68-71. [38412]
  • 101. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1992. Spatial variability in seed production of the perennial bunchgrass Bouteloua gracilis (Graminaceae). American Journal of Botany. 79(3): 347-353. [18051]
  • 107. Cooper, H. W.; Smith, James E., Jr.; Atkins, M. D. 1957. Producing and harvesting grass seed in the Great Plains. Farmers' Bulletin 2112. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 30 p. [27329]
  • 108. Coppock, D. L.; Detling, J. K.; Ellis, J. E.; Dyer, M. I. 1983. Plant-herbivore interactions on a North American mixed-grass prairie. Oecologia. 56: 1-9. [687]
  • 109. Costello, David F. 1944. Important species of the major forage types in Colorado and Wyoming. Ecological Monographs. 14(1): 107-134. [693]
  • 110. Costello, David F. 1944. Natural revegetation of abandoned plowed land in the mixed prairie association of northeastern Colorado. Ecology. 25(3): 312-326. [25703]
  • 111. Cottle, H. J. 1931. Studies in the vegetation of southwestern Texas. Ecology. 12(1): 105-155. [4556]
  • 112. Coupland, Robert T. 1950. Ecology of mixed prairie in Canada. Ecological Monographs. 20(4): 271-315. [700]
  • 116. Coupland, Robert T.; Johnson, R. E. 1965. Rooting characteristics of native grassland species of Saskatchewan. Journal of Ecology. 53: 475-507. [702]
  • 118. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 124. Diggs, George M., Jr.; Lipscomb, Barney L.; O'Kennon, Robert J. 1999. Illustrated flora of north-central Texas. Sida Botanical Miscellany, No. 16. Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 1626 p. [35698]
  • 128. Dodd, M. B.; Lauenroth, W. K.; Welker, J. 1998. Differential water resource use by herbaceous and woody plant life-forms in a shortgrass steppe community. Oecologia. 117(4): 504-512. [34950]
  • 131. Duebbert, Harold F.; Jacobson, Erling T.; Higgins, Kenneth F.; Podoll, Erling B. 1981. Establishment of seeded grasslands for wildlife habitat in the prairie pothole region. Special Scientific Report: Wildlife No. 234. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 21 p. [5740]
  • 147. Foxx, Teralene S.; Tierney, Gail D. 1987. Rooting patterns in the pinyon-juniper woodland. In: Everett, Richard L., compiler. Proceedings--pinyon-juniper conference; 1986 January 13-16; Reno, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-215. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 69-79. [4790]
  • 160. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329]
  • 161. Goetz, Harold. 1963. Growth and development of native range plants in the mixed grass prairie of western North Dakota. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 141 p. Thesis. [5661]
  • 164. Gould, Frank W. 1979. The genus Bouteloua (Poaceae). Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden. 66: 348-416. [5758]
  • 167. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 171. Hallsten, Gregory P.; Skinner, Quentin D.; Beetle, Alan A. 1987. Grasses of Wyoming. 3rd ed. Research Journal 202. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Experiment Station. 432 p. [2906]
  • 180. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992]
  • 184. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 730 p. [1168]
  • 188. Hoover, Max M.; Hein, M. A.; Dayton, William A.; Erlanson, C. O. 1948. The main grasses for farm and home. In: Grass: The yearbook of agriculture--1948. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture: 639-700. [1190]
  • 193. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Arizona range grasses: Description -- forage value -- management. Bulletin 298. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [5004]
  • 208. Johnson, James R.; Nichols, James T. 1970. Plants of South Dakota grasslands: A photographic study. Bull. 566. Brookings, SD: South Dakota State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 163 p. [18483]
  • 235. Lee, C. A.; Lauenroth, W. K. 1994. Spatial distributions of grass and shrub root systems in the shortgrass steppe. The American Midland Naturalist. 132(1): 117-123. [23442]
  • 240. Manske, Llewellyn Leo. 1980. Habitat, phenology and growth of selected sandhills range plants. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 154 p. Dissertation. [4549]
  • 241. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 259. Monson, Russell K.; Sackschewsky, Michael R.; Williams, George J.,III. 1986. Field measurements of photosynthesis, water-use efficiency, and growth in Agropyron smithii (C3) and Bouteloua gracilis (C4) in the Colorado shortgrass steppe. Oecologia. 68: 400-409. [4512]
  • 261. Morris, H. E.; Booth, W. E.; Payne, G. F.; Stitt, R. E. 1950. Important grasses on Montana ranges. Bull. No. 470. Bozeman, MT: Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. 52 p. [5520]
  • 265. Mueller, Irene M. 1941. An experimental study of rhizomes of certain prairie plants. Ecological Monographs. 11: 165-188. [25837]
  • 274. Parker, Karl G. 1975. Some important Utah range plants. Extension Service Bulletin EC-383. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 174 p. [9878]
  • 315. Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 1989. Blue grama. Fact Sheet. Amarillo, TX: Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 2 p. [18012]
  • 316. Shaw, A. F.; Cooper, C. S. 1973. The interagency forage, conservation and wildlife handbook. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, Extension Service. 205 p. [5666]
  • 335. Stubbendieck, J.; Launchbaugh, John L.; Burzlaff, Donald F.; McCully, Wayne G. 1973. Stoloniferous blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 26(3): 230-231. [35017]
  • 349. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1948. Grass: The yearbook of agriculture 1948. Washington, DC. 892 p. [2391]
  • 355. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Western Energy and Land Use Team. 347 p. Available from NTIS, Springfield, VA 22161; PB-83-167023. [2458]
  • 356. Weaver, J. E. 1958. Summary and interpretation of underground development in natural grassland communities. Ecological Monographs. 28(1): 55-78. [297]
  • 357. Weaver, J. E. 1968. Prairie plants and their environment: A fifty-year study in the Midwest. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 276 p. [17547]
  • 358. Weaver, J. E.; Darland, R. W. 1949. Soil-root relationships of certain native grasses in various soil types. Ecological Monographs. 19: 303-338. [5430]
  • 365. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 369. White, E. M. 1989. Factors causing hollow-crown or ring grass patterns. Rangelands. 11(4): 154-155. [38659]
  • 372. White, Everett M. 1993. Conditions favoring blue grama stolon formation. Prairie Naturalist. 25(4): 345-353. [23028]
  • 55. Borland, Dorothy F. 1988. Native grasses for urban use. In: Davis, Arnold; Stanford, Geoffrey, eds. The prairie: roots of our culture; foundation of our economy: Proceedings, 10th North American prairie conference; 1986 June 22-26; Denton, TX. Dallas, TX: Native Prairie Association of Texas: 04.04 [2 p.]. [25588]
  • 137. Eddleman, Lee E. 1978. Survey of viability of indigenous grasses, forbs and shrubs: techniques for initial acquisition and treatment for propagation in preparation for future land reclamation in the Fort Union Basin. RLO-2232-T2-3: Annual Progress Report--June 1, 1977 to May 31, 1978. [Washington, DC]: U.S. Energy and Development Administration. 232 p. [Prepared for U.S. Energy and Development Contract No. EY-76-S-06-2232, Task Agreement #2]. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [5639]
  • 194. Humphrey, Robert R. 1970. Arizona range grasses: Their description, forage value and management. Bulletin 298 [Revised]. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 159 p. [5567]

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Physical Description

Perennials, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Rhizomes present, Rhizome short and compact, stems close, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, Stems geniculate, decumbent, or lax, sometimes rooting at nodes, Stems caespitose, tufted, or clustered, Stems terete, round in cross section, or polygonal, Stem internodes hollow, Stems with inflorescence less than 1 m tall, Stems, culms, or scapes exceeding basal leaves, Leaves mostly basal, below middle of stem, Leaves conspicuously 2-ranked, distichous, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, Leaf sheath hairy at summit, throat, or collar, Leaf sheath and blade differentiated, Leaf blades linear, Leaf blades very narrow or filiform, less than 2 mm wide, Leaf blades mostly flat, Leaf blade margins folded, involute, or conduplicate, Leaf blades more or less hairy, Ligule present, Ligule a fringe of hairs, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence with 2 or more spikes, fascicles, glomerules, heads, or clusters per culm, Inflorescence a panicle with narrowly racemose or spicate branches, Inflorescence with 2-10 branches, Inflorescence branches 1-sided, Inflorescence branches termin ating in bristle or point, Flowers bisexual, Spikelets sessile or subsessile, Spikelets laterally compressed, Spikelet less than 3 mm wide, Spikelets with 1 fertile floret, Spikelets solitary at rachis nodes, Spikelets all alike and fertille, Spikelets bisexual, Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes, glumes persistent, Spikelets secund, in rows on one side of rachis, Rachilla or pedicel glabrous, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes distinctly unequal, Glumes equal to or longer than adjacent lemma, Glume equal to or longer than spikelet, Glumes 1 nerved, Lemma coriaceous, firmer or thicker in texture than the glumes, Lemma 3 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex dentate, 3-5 fid, Lemma teeth unequal. central tooth longer, Lemma awnless, Lemma with 3 awns, Lemma awn less than 1 cm long, Lemma margins thin, lying flat, Lemma straight, Palea present, well developed, Palea membranous, hyaline, Palea shorter than lemma, Palea 2 nerved or 2 keeled, Stam ens 3, Styles 2-fid, deeply 2-branched, Stigmas 2, Fruit - caryopsis, Caryopsis ellipsoid, longitudinally grooved, hilum long-linear.
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Dr. David Bogler

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Description

Perennial. Culms densely tufted, erect, 15–60 cm tall. Leaf sheaths glabrous, in tight bundles at culm base; leaf blades flat or involute, 3–10 cm, 1–2 mm wide, usually glabrous. Inflorescence of (1 or)2(–4) distant racemes; racemes 2.5–5 cm, falcate at maturity, persistent, spikelets numerous, densely crowded, pectinate; rachis not extendedbeyond uppermost spikelet. Spikelets 5–6 mm; glumes lanceolate, persistent; lower glume linear-lanceolate, ca. 3.5 mm; upper glume lanceolate, 3.5–6 mm, sparsely villous on keel; lemma of fertile floret 5–5.5 mm, dorsally villous, lateral veins extended into 3 short awns at apex, intermediate lobes acute; 2nd floret ca. 2 mm, densely long-villous at rachilla apex, cleft to the base, lobes rounded, awns 3, scabrous, ca. 5 mm; 1 or 2 additional broad awnless rudiments sometimes present. Fl. and fr. summer to autumn. 2n = 28, 35, 42, 61, 77.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Chondrosum gracile Kunth, Nov. Gen. Sp. 1: 176. 1815 ["1816"]; Actinochloa gracilis (Kunth) Willdenow ex Roemer & Schultes; Atheropogon gracilis (Kunth) Sprengel; Eutriana gracilis (Kunth) Trinius.
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Type Information

Holotype for Bouteloua stricta Vasey
Catalog Number: US 81710
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): G. C. Nealley
Year Collected: 1887
Locality: Texas, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Vasey, G. 1890. U.S.D.A. Div. Agrostol. Bull. 12 (1): 45.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

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Holotype for Bouteloua oligostachya var. major Vasey ex L.H. Dewey
Catalog Number: US 883201
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): J. G. Lemmon
Year Collected: 1882
Locality: Arizona, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Dewey, L. H. 1894. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 2: 531.
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Type fragment for Chondrosium gracile Kunth
Catalog Number: US 865679A
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): F. W. Humboldt & A. J. A. Bonpland
Locality: La Buffa do Guanaxuato. [La Bufa de Guanajuato?], Guanajuato, Mexico, North America
  • Type fragment: Kunth, C. S., et al. 1816. Nova Genera Sp. Pl. 1: 176.
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Holotype for Bouteloua oligostachya var. pallida Scribn. ex Beal
Catalog Number: US 81708
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. G. Pringle
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Chihuahua, Mexico, North America
  • Holotype: Beal, W. J. 1896. Grasses N. Amer. 2: 416.
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Ecology

Habitat

Chihuahuan Desert Habitat

This taxon is found in the Chihuahuan Desert, which is one of the most biologically diverse arid regions on Earth. This ecoregion extends from within the United States south into Mexico. This desert is sheltered from the influence of other arid regions such as the Sonoran Desert by the large mountain ranges of the Sierra Madres. This isolation has allowed the evolution of many endemic species; most notable is the high number of endemic plants; in fact, there are a total of 653 vertebrate taxa recorded in the Chihuahuan Desert.  Moreover, this ecoregion also sustains some of the last extant populations of Mexican Prairie Dog, wild American Bison and Pronghorn Antelope.

The dominant plant species throughout the Chihuahuan Desert is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata). Depending on diverse factors such as type of soil, altitude, and degree of slope, L. tridentata can occur in association with other species. More generally, an association between L. tridentata, American Tarbush (Flourensia cernua) and Viscid Acacia (Acacia neovernicosa) dominates the northernmost portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The meridional portion is abundant in Yucca and Opuntia, and the southernmost portion is inhabited by Mexican Fire-barrel Cactus (Ferocactus pilosus) and Mojave Mound Cactus (Echinocereus polyacanthus). Herbaceous elements such as Gypsum Grama (Chondrosum ramosa), Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and Hairy Grama (Chondrosum hirsuta), among others, become dominant near the Sierra Madre Occidental. In western Coahuila State, Lecheguilla Agave (Agave lechuguilla), Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), Purple Prickly-pear (Opuntia macrocentra) and Rainbow Cactus (Echinocereus pectinatus) are the dominant vascular plants.

Because of its recent origin, few warm-blooded vertebrates are restricted to the Chihuahuan Desert scrub. However, the Chihuahuan Desert supports a large number of wide-ranging mammals, such as the Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), Robust Cottontail (Sylvilagus robustus EN); Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Grey Fox (Unocyon cineroargentinus), Jaguar (Panthera onca), Collared Peccary or Javelina (Pecari tajacu), Desert Cottontail (Sylvilagus auduboni), Black-tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus), Kangaroo Rats (Dipodomys sp.), pocket mice (Perognathus spp.), Woodrats (Neotoma spp.) and Deer Mice (Peromyscus spp). With only 24 individuals recorded in the state of Chihuahua Antilocapra americana is one of the most highly endangered taxa that inhabits this desert. The ecoregion also contains a small wild population of the highly endangered American Bison (Bison bison) and scattered populations of the highly endangered Mexican Prairie Dog (Cynomys mexicanus), as well as the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus).

The Chihuahuan Desert herpetofauna typifies this ecoregion.Several lizard species are centered in the Chihuahuan Desert, and include the Texas Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma cornutum); Texas Banded Gecko (Coleonyx brevis), often found under rocks in limestone foothills; Reticulate Gecko (C. reticulatus); Greater Earless Lizard (Cophosaurus texanus); several species of spiny lizards (Scelopoprus spp.); and the Western Marbled Whiptail (Cnemidophorus tigris marmoratus). Two other whiptails, the New Mexico Whiptail (C. neomexicanus) and the Common Checkered Whiptail (C. tesselatus) occur as all-female parthenogenic clone populations in select disturbed habitats.

Representative snakes include the Trans-Pecos Rat Snake (Bogertophis subocularis), Texas Blackhead Snake (Tantilla atriceps), and Sr (Masticophis taeniatus) and Neotropical Whipsnake (M. flagellum lineatus). Endemic turtles include the Bolsón Tortoise (Gopherus flavomarginatus), Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene coahuila) and several species of softshell turtles. Some reptiles and amphibians restricted to the Madrean sky island habitats include the Ridgenose Rattlesnake (Crotalus willardi), Twin-spotted Rattlesnake (C. pricei), Northern Cat-eyed Snake (Leptodeira septentrionalis), Yarrow’s Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus jarrovii), and Canyon Spotted Whiptail (Cnemidophorus burti).

There are thirty anuran species occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert: Chiricahua Leopard Frog (Rana chircahuaensis); Red Spotted Toad (Anaxyrus punctatus); American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus); Canyon Treefrog (Hyla arenicolor); Northern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans); Rio Grande Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus cystignathoides); Cliff Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus marnockii); Spotted Chirping Frog (Eleutherodactylus guttilatus); Tarahumara Barking Frog (Craugastor tarahumaraensis); Mexican Treefrog (Smilisca baudinii); Madrean Treefrog (Hyla eximia); Montezuma Leopard Frog (Lithobates montezumae); Brown's Leopard Frog (Lithobates brownorum); Yavapai Leopard Frog (Lithobates yavapaiensis); Western Barking Frog (Craugastor augusti); Mexican Cascade Frog (Lithobates pustulosus); Lowland Burrowing Frog (Smilisca fodiens); New Mexico Spadefoot (Spea multiplicata); Plains Spadefoot (Spea bombifrons); Pine Toad (Incilius occidentalis); Woodhouse's Toad (Anaxyrus woodhousii); Couch's Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus couchii); Plateau Toad (Anaxyrus compactilis); Texas Toad (Anaxyrus speciosus); Dwarf Toad (Incilius canaliferus); Great Plains Narrowmouth Toad (Gastrophryne olivacea); Great Plains Toad (Anaxyrus cognatus); Eastern Green Toad (Anaxyrus debilis); Gulf Coast Toad (Incilius valliceps); and Longfoot Chirping Toad (Eleutherodactylus longipes VU). The sole salamander occurring in the Chihuahuan Desert is the Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).

Common bird species include the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia), Merlin (Falco columbarius), Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), and the rare Zone-tailed Hawk (Buteo albonotatus). Geococcyx californianus), Curve-billed Thrasher (Toxostoma curvirostra), Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata), Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), Black-throated Sparrow (Amphispiza bilineata), Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), Worthen’s Sparrow (Spizella wortheni), and Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus). In addition, numerous raptors inhabit the Chihuahuan Desert and include the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus) and the Elf Owl (Micrathene whitneyi).

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
This species grows in a wide range of often disturbed habitats. It occurs in grasslands, on rocky or clay soils, in pine forests, scrubs, thickets, shrublands, slopes, flats, roadsides (Quattrocchi et al. 2004). It is one of the most important range species of the plains region of North America and represents a large proportion of the forage consumed by domesticated animals (Ghandi et al. 2001).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: density, tiller, xeric

Elevation: The elevational range of blue grama in North America is 985 to 9,850 feet (300 to 3,000 m) [164,274]. The following table presents examples of elevation ranges for blue grama, broken down by state:

State Elevational Range References
Arizona 1,000 to 8,800 feet (305-2,700 m) [17,35,49,145,173,193,194,215,228,267]
California <7,550 feet (2,300 m)  [180]
Colorado 3,500 to 10,500 feet (1,000-3,200 m) [121,125]
Montana 2,400 6,100 feet (1,860 m) [125,264]
New Mexico 4,500 to 8,500 feet (1,370-2,590 m) [65,121,145,217,228,241]
Texas 1,500 to 1,900 feet (460-580 m) [38]
Utah 700 to 9,500 feet (213-2,900 m)  [125,274,365]
Wyoming 3,100 to 8,500 feet (950-2,600 m) [125]

Climate: Blue grama generally requires 8 to 15 inches (203-381 mm) of annual precipitation [274], which occurs primarily in spring and summer months throughout its range [33,49,230,321]. The following table presents climate information for some of the areas in which blue grama occurs:

Location Precipitation Temperature References
Northern Great Plains > 8 inches  -40 to 100 oF                  120-160 frost-free days [39,97,280]
mixed prairie 15 inches annually along northern and eastern boundaries, 9 inches along western and southern boundaries January average:            1 to 23 oF 

July average: 68 oF

[347]
shortgrass steppe 12 to 22 inches 150-200 frost-free days [244]
Southern Great Plains 18 to 34 inches 7 to 100 oF [43,70,97]
Great Basin irregular, < 7 inches 100-150 frost-free days [52]
Southwestern U.S. 17 inches January minimum: 29 oF July maximum: 90 oF [54]

Site types: Blue grama grows both in low-lying areas and on uplands [34,38,77,92,131,188,280,291]. It is found on dry prairies and sandhills in the northeastern United States and in Canada [160]. In the western United States, blue grama is found east of the Continental Divide on valley floors, alluvial benches and fans, drainages, mesas, toeslopes, and steeper slopes up to 35% [35,38,47,49,50,93,153,180,215,241,264].  

Soils: Blue grama occupies a range of well-drained [187,236,355] soil types, from fine to coarse textured [34,50,74,92,107,112,121,131,145,188,298,299,315,355]. It grows on clay [30,65,77,114,164], silt [30], fine loams [1,47], loams [15,280,316], sandy loams [65,77,118], sand [15,47,89,112,316], and gravelly soils [47,112,118,164]. Soil texture may affect reproductive development of blue grama; density of culms produced per plant, height of culms, density of viable seeds, and number of viable seeds decrease with decreasing soil coarseness [101]. Finer soil textures may result in shallower penetration of moisture, greater water loss from runoff, and a consequent increase in abundance of blue grama on mixed-prairie sites in Canada [112]. In a study of grassland in North Dakota, blue grama occurred more frequently on more xeric sites where infiltration of water is less efficient [126]. 

Tolerances: Blue grama is cold [355,359,365] and drought [16,34,71,74,87,94,261,266,274,315,365] tolerant. In laboratory tests, blue grama perennating structures (extravaginal crowns) survived 2 months of exposure of -31 degrees Fahrenheit (-35 oC) [314]. Drought tolerance and adaptation to xeric conditions allow blue grama to occupy drier sites throughout its range [89,112,118,131,153,173,228,259,266,291,349]. Prolonged drought, however, results in decreased root numbers, spread, and depth of penetration in blue grama root systems [356]. Blue grama has an opportunistic water use strategy, using water rapidly when available and becoming dormant under dry soil conditions [281,291]. Epstein and others [139] found that aboveground net primary production of blue grama generally increased in response to an increase in mean annual temperature, while production decreased in response to increasing mean annual precipitation. Blue grama production was highest with 8 to 12 inches (200-300 mm) of precipitation, and lowest at greater than 31 inches (800 mm) annual precipitation. In New Mexico, however, blue grama may be restricted to sites with higher soil moisture than adjacent areas [64,217]. Season of precipitation may be important to blue grama production; dry summers may cause tiller death and thinning of blue grama stands, while wet summers promote thickening of stands [196]. 

Blue grama is also tolerant of  alkaline soils [188,315,316,334,349,355] and is rarely found on even weakly acid soils [315,334,355]. However, in a study in southeastern Arizona, blue grama was most abundant on acidic, relatively infertile, sandy clay loam soils [271]. Blue grama has been reported as fair to moderately tolerant [172,315,334,355] and intolerant of salt, tending to have a shallow root system that avoids soil salinity [56,243]. Miyamoto [256] found that with applications of 50, 100, 150, and 200 milliequivalent (me)/liter of salt solution, blue grama germination began decreasing markedly at the highest concentration. Blue grama vegetative growth was also sensitive to salt solutions. In greenhouse experiments, Weiler [364] found that dry weight of blue grama was much lower when irrigated with saline solution than with tap water, and Weiler and Gould [363] found that heights of blue grama decreased with applications of increasing salt concentrations.

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the term: shrub

Understory occurrence: Blue grama is a principal species in the aspen parklands of Canada, occurring
with rough fescue (Festuca altaica), porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea),
prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), slender wheatgrass (Elymus
trachycaulus), and mat muhly (Muhlenbergia richardsonis) [44,115]. Blue grama is also found in the understory of riparian cottonwood forests in the
Central Plains, commonly occurring with sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus) and
buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) [8]. 

On the sagebrush steppe, blue grama occurs with big sagebrush
(Artemisia tridentata),
western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), threadleaf sedge (Carex
filifolia), prairie Junegrass, Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), green needlegrass
(Nassella viridula), and needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata) [37,41]. In big sagebrush communities, blue grama occurs with big sagebrush,
gray horsebrush (Tetradymia canescens), and green rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus
viscidiflorus). Common grass species in these communities
include crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum),
prairie Junegrass, and bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) [46]. 

In salt-desert shrub communities, blue grama associated shrub species include
shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), Gardner's saltbush (Atriplex
gardneri), mat saltbush (Atriplex corrugata), fourwing saltbush
(Atriplex canescens), black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), winterfat
(Krascheninnikovia lanata), and spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa). Associated
grass species include Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides),
bottlebrush squirreltail,
Sandberg bluegrass, galleta (Pleuraphis jamesii), alkali sacaton (Sporobolus
airoides), and sand dropseed [47,143].

In the evergreen oak woodlands of the southwest, blue grama occurs in the understory
with muhlys (Muhlenbergia spp.), plains lovegrass (Eragrostis intermedia), sideoats
grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), hairy grama (B. hirsuta), little bluestem
(Schizachyrium scoparium), and cane bluestem (Bothriochloa barbinodis)
[68].



In ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) communities, blue grama occurs with
Colorado pinyon (P. edulis), Gambel oak (Quercus gambelii),
alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana), common juniper (J. communis),
Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), greenleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos patula), black
sagebrush (A. nova), big sagebrush, Fendler's ceanothus (Ceanothus
fendleri),
curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), true
mountain-mahogany (C.
montanus), snowberry (Symphoricarpos spp.), ninebark (Physocarpus
spp.), and antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata)
[13,57,96,121,145]. Associated grass species
include pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens), elk sedge (Carex geyeri), Idaho
fescue (Festuca idahoensis), bluebunch
wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), purple threeawn (Aristida
purpurea), prairie Junegrass, galleta, mountain muhly (Muhlenbergia
montana), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), mutton grass (Poa
fendleriana), needle-and-thread grass, and bottlebrush squirreltail [13,13,28,35,57,96,118,121,228]. 

In pinyon-juniper communities, blue grama commonly occurs with Colorado
pinyon, singleleaf pinyon (P. monophylla), alligator juniper, Utah
juniper (J. osteosperma), oneseed juniper (J. monosperma), Gambel oak,
Saskatoon serviceberry, black sagebrush, big sagebrush, fourwing saltbush,
true mountain-mahogany, Stansbury cliffrose (Purshia mexicana var. stansburiana),
green rabbitbrush, antelope bitterbrush, green ephedra (Ephedra
viridis), red barberry (Mahonia haematocarpa), broom
snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), and turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia). Associated grass species include
western wheatgrass, poverty threeawn (Aristida divaricata),
sideoats grama, black grama (B. eriopoda), prairie Junegrass, crested
wheatgrass, muhlys, dropseeds (Sporobolus spp.),
galleta, mutton grass, cheatgrass, fringed brome (Bromus ciliatus),
California brome (B. carinatus), bottlebrush squirreltail,
Indian ricegrass, needle-and-thread grass, New Mexico feathergrass (Hesperostipa neomexicana),
Sandberg bluegrass, and
purple threeawn [29,46,67,78,118,120,182,228,330]. 

Grassland associations: Blue grama is an important component of the shortgrass prairie [22,33,91,118,184],
co-dominating with buffalo grass and occurring with hairy grama, purple threeawn,
Sandberg bluegrass, threadleaf sedge, and
little bluestem [3,7,22,33,91,94,230].

In the central and northern Great Plains mixed
prairies, blue grama occurs with prairie
sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia),
western wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, buffalograss, prairie Junegrass, needle-and-thread grass, hairy grama, green needlegrass,
Sandberg bluegrass, and needleleaf sedge (Carex duriuscula) [1,2,3,10,31,33,112,264]. Shrubs
occurring in these systems include fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida), big sagebrush,
rubber rabbitbrush (C. nauseosus), and plains prickly-pear (Opuntia
polyacantha) [1,3,10,31,112,264].

In the southern Great Plains, blue grama occurs with curly mesquite (Hilaria
belangeri), galleta, New Mexico feathergrass, sideoats grama, tobosa (Pleuraphis mutica), vine-mesquite
(Panicum obtusum), purple threeawn, Indian ricegrass, prairie Junegrass,
buffalograss, plains lovegrass, and Texas tussockgrass (Nasella
leucotrica) [63,69,144]. Woody plants
occurring in these communities include honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)
and lotebush (Ziziphus obtusifolia) [144].

In the semi-desert grasslands of the Southwest, blue grama occurs with hairy grama, sideoats grama, black grama, bush muhly
(Muhlenbergia porteri), threeawn (Aristida spp.), buffalograss, plains lovegrass, little
bluestem, sand dropseed, bottlebrush squirreltail, curly mesquite,
galleta, western wheatgrass, Indian ricegrass, New Mexico feathergrass, and needle-and-thread grass [17,70,122,146,270].
Shrubs occurring in these communities include shrub live oak (Quercus
turbinella), mountain-mahogany
(Cercocarpos spp.), skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata), and desert ceanothus
(Ceanothus greggii) [146].

Classifications describing plant communities in which blue grama occurs as a
dominant species are as follows: 

Alberta [263,378]

Arizona [12,13,35,145,173,228,257,267,270,337]

Colorado [11,121]

Kansas [233]
Montana [264,382]

Nevada [366]

New Mexico [12,13,13,121,145,148,149,182,217,228,257,337]

North Dakota [239,251,376]
Saskatchewan [378]

Texas [340]

Utah [366]
Wyoming [341]

In forest communities, blue grama occurs as a
co-dominant with ponderosa pine [12,13,35,121,145,148,173,228,267,337],
oneseed juniper [148], alligator juniper [35,182,217,337], Utah juniper
[35,228], oneseed juniper [149,228,337], singleleaf pinyon [35,337], and Colorado
pinyon [149,182,217,228,337].

In shrub communities, blue grama occurs as a
co-dominant with sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) [233], fourwing
saltbush [233], rubber rabbitbrush [149], Parry's rabbitbrush (Ericameria parryi)
[149], winterfat [233], and big sagebrush [148,149,183,341]. 

In
grassland communities, blue grama occurs as a co-dominant with buffalo grass
[233,340], needle-and-thread grass [227,233,239,264,382], prairie Junegrass
[382], little bluestem, plains muhly (Muhlenbergia cuspidata)
[239], bluebunch wheatgrass [264], western wheatgrass [149,149,183,239],
alkali sacaton [149], saltgrass (Distichlis spicata) [183], galleta
[149], Kentucky bluegrass [239], threadleaf sedge [233,239], and sun
sedge (Carex
heliophila) [239]. 

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  • 341. Thilenius, John F.; Brown, Gary R.; Medina, Alvin L. 1995. Vegetation on semi-arid rangelands, Cheyenne River Basin, Wyoming. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-GTR-263. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 60 p. [26478]
  • 366. West, Neil E.; Tausch, Robin J.; Tueller, Paul T. 1998. A management-oriented classification of pinyon-juniper woodlands of the Great Basin. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-12. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 42 p. [29131]
  • 376. Whitman, Warren C. 1979. Analysis of grassland vegetation on selected key areas in southwestern North Dakota. Project report of the North Dakota Regional Environmental Assessment Program: Contract No. 7-01-2. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University, Department of Botany; Bismark, ND: Regional Environmental Assessment Program. 199 p. [12529]
  • 382. Wright, John C.; Wright, Elnora A. 1948. Grassland types of south central Montana. Ecology. 29(4): 449-460. [2627]
  • 270. Nichol, A. A. 1952. [Revised]. The natural vegetation of Arizona. Tech. Bull. 68. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station: 189-230. [Revisions by W. S. Phillips]. [3928]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

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

More info for the terms: cover, shrub, vine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [317]:

101 Bluebunch wheatgrass

102 Idaho fescue

104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue

107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass

109 Ponderosa pine shrubland

110 Ponderosa pine-grassland

206 Chamise chaparral

209 Montane shrubland

210 Bitterbrush

211 Creosote bush scrub

212 Blackbush

215 Valley grassland

301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama

302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass

303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass

304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass

306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass

307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge

309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass

310 needle-and-thread grass-blue grama

311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass

312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue

314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue

316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue

317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass

321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue

322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass

323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue

324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue

401 Basin big sagebrush

402 Mountain big sagebrush

403 Wyoming big sagebrush

404 Threetip sagebrush

405 Black sagebrush

406 Low sagebrush

408 Other sagebrush types

411 Aspen woodland

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

413 Gambel oak

414 Salt desert shrub

415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany

416 True mountain-mahogany

417 Littleleaf mountain-mahogany

422 Riparian

501 Saltbush-greasewood

502 Grama-galleta

503 Arizona chaparral

504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland

505 Grama-tobosa shrub

508 Creosotebush-tarbush

509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association

601 Bluestem prairie

602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed

603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass

604 Bluestem-grama prairie

605 Sandsage prairie

606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass

609 Wheatgrass-grama

610 Wheatgrass

611 Blue grama-buffalo grass

612 Sagebrush-grass

613 Fescue grassland

614 Crested wheatgrass

615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama

701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass

702 Black grama-alkali sacaton

703 Black grama-sideoats grama

704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass

705 Blue grama-galleta

706 Blue grama-sideoats grama

707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama

708 Bluestem-dropseed

709 Bluestem-grama

710 Bluestem prairie

712 Galleta-alkali sacaton

713 Grama-muhly-threeawn

714 Grama-bluestem

715 Grama-buffalo grass

716 Grama-feathergrass

717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass

718 Mesquite-grama

719 Mesquite-liveoak-seacoast bluestem

720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)

721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)

722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie

724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat

725 Vine mesquite-alkali sacaton

727 Mesquite-buffalo grass

728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia

729 Mesquite

730 Sand shinnery oak

731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma

732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)

733 Juniper-oak

734 Mesquite-oak

735 Sideoats grama-sumac-juniper

802 Missouri prairie

803 Missouri glades
  • 317. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]

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Habitat: Cover Types

More info on this topic.

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

More info for the term: cover

SAF COVER TYPES [141]:

40 Post oak-blackjack oak

46 Eastern redcedar

66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper

67 Mohrs (shin) oak

68 Mesquite

217 Aspen

219 Limber pine

220 Rocky Mountain juniper

235 Cottonwood-willow

237 Interior ponderosa pine

238 Western juniper

239 Pinyon-juniper

240 Arizona cypress

241 Western live oak

242 Mesquite

247 Jeffrey pine
  • 141. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

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

KUCHLER [223] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:

K010 Ponderosa shrub forest

K011 Western ponderosa forest

K016 Eastern ponderosa forest

K017 Black Hills pine forest

K019 Arizona pine forest

K020 Spruce-fir-Douglas-fir forest

K022 Great Basin pine forest

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K024 Juniper steppe woodland

K027 Mesquite bosques

K031 Oak-juniper woodland

K032 Transition between K031 and K037

K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub

K038 Great Basin sagebrush

K039 Blackbrush

K040 Saltbush-greasewood

K044 Creosote bush-tarbush

K045 Ceniza shrub

K050 Fescue-wheatgrass

K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass

K053 Grama-galleta steppe

K054 Grama-tobosa prairie

K055 Sagebrush steppe

K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe

K057 Galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe

K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe

K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna

K060 Mesquite savanna

K061 Mesquite-acacia savanna

K062 Mesquite-live oak savanna

K063 Foothills prairie

K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass

K065 Grama-buffalo grass

K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass

K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass

K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass

K069 Bluestem-grama prairie

K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie

K071 Shinnery

K074 Bluestem prairie

K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie

K076 Blackland prairie

K081 Oak savanna

K083 Cedar glades

K084 Cross Timbers

K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass

K086 Juniper-oak savanna

K087 Mesquite-oak savanna

K088 Fayette prairie
  • 223. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. United States [Potential natural vegetation of the conterminous United States]. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 1:3,168,000; colored. [3455]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

More info on this topic.

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):

ECOSYSTEMS [157]:

FRES10 White-red-jack pine

FRES15 Oak-hickory

FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood

FRES19 Aspen-birch

FRES20 Douglas-fir

FRES21 Ponderosa pine

FRES23 Fir-spruce

FRES28 Western hardwoods

FRES29 Sagebrush

FRES30 Desert shrub

FRES31 Shinnery

FRES32 Texas savanna

FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe

FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper

FRES36 Mountain grasslands

FRES38 Plains grasslands

FRES39 Prairie

FRES40 Desert grasslands

FRES42 Annual grasslands
  • 157. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; Lewis, Mont E.; Smith, Dixie R. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]

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Habitat & Distribution

Cultivated in China [native to North America (including Mexico)].
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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Dispersal

Establishment

Proper seedbed preparation is always necessary when trying to establish any native grass or wildflower species. For the best results seed of blue grama should be drilled on a firm and weed free seed bed with a depth band and packer wheel equipped native grass drill. Depth of seeding should be ¼ to ½ inch. Broadcasting the seed is an alternative planting option. However, the seed should then be incorporated to provide seed to soil contact or at least pressed into the soil with a cultipacker. Seeding rate varies depending on the planting site and method. Drill planted seeding rates are 25 to 40 pure live seeds (PLS) per square foot or 1 to 3 pounds PLS per acre. The seeding rate should be increased by 50 to 100 percent for broadcasting, harsh sites, south and west exposures, and where early or dense cover is required.

Blue grama cultivars have a large number of seeds per pound somewhere between 700,000 and 800,000 seeds/pound. Suitable planting dates are April to mid-May in the central Great Plains, slightly earlier in the southern Great Plains and June 15 to July 15 in the southwestern U.S. Wilson et al. (1976) found that blue grama seedlings avoid drought in three ways: 1) by increasing water uptake, 2) by adjusting leaf area, and 3) by reducing transpiration. The relative importance of each depends on the morphological stages of the seedling development and severity of drought conditions.

Briske and Wilson (1980) studied the extent and timing of adventitious (permanent) root development in blue grama seedlings. They discovered that if blue grama seedlings did not initiate and develop adventitious roots within 6 to 10 weeks after emergence they often died. Seedling death was caused by the expansion of leaf area beyond the ability of the seedlings seminal roots to provide adequate moisture. Without adventitious root development an increased transpiration stress was causing seedling and stand mortality. To develop adventitious roots the seedlings require a period during which the soil surface will continuously remain moist for 2 to 4 days. This moisture requirement is caused by the growth form of blue grama seedlings (Hyder et.al., 1971) that elevates the point of adventitious root growth to a point very near the soil surface. Weaver and Zink (1945) reported that blue grama seedlings grown without adventitious roots died after 8 weeks. Weaver (1926) explained that the root structure of established blue grama plants are exceedingly fine and spread widely in the surface soil, often to distances of 12 to 18 inches.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Associations

Known predators

Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama (grass)) is prey of:
Antilocapra americana
Bos taurus
Lepus californicus
Lepus townsendii
Orthoptera
Coleoptera
Hemiptera
Auchenorrhyncha
Sternorrhyncha
Hymenoptera
Papilionoidea
Thysanoptera
Geomyidae
Dipodomys
Spermophilus
Peromyscus maniculatus

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

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • L. D. Harris and L. Paur, A quantitative food web analysis of a shortgrass community, Technical Report No. 154, Grassland Biome. U.S. International Biological Program (1972), from p. 17.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© SPIRE project

Source: SPIRE

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: cover, density, frequency, natural, prescribed burn, prescribed fire, root crown

With normal precipitation, blue grama is not harmed by prescribed burning, but may decrease following burning for 2 to 3 years during drought years [381]. On a semidesert grassland site in Arizona, blue grama declined significantly (p<0.001) during the 1st season following a prescribed burn; however, it recovered fully after 2 postfire years [51]. This study was part of an extensive of body of research on fire effects in semidesert grassland, oak savanna, and Madrean oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona. See the Research Project Summary of this work for more information on burning conditions, fires, and fire effects on more than 100 species of plants, birds, small mammals, and grasshoppers.

Annual burning may favor blue grama. On aspen-parkland sites in central Alberta, blue grama occurred in at least 10% of the plots that had been repeatedly burned but did not occur in adjacent, unburned sites [19]. Gibson and Towne [159] also found that blue grama occurred on sites that had been annually burned for several years in a Kansas tallgrass prairie, but it did not occur on adjacent unburned sites. In a study at the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area in Kansas, average cover of blue grama was comparatively higher on annually burned sites than on sites burned once every 4 years or unburned sites [105]. On paired plots in North Dakota, however, blue grama frequency varied little between burned and unburned sites.

Season of burning: Blue grama may respond differently based on the season of prescribed fire activities. Spring burning in the shortgrass prairie may result in a greater reduction in blue grama production than fall burning, though recovery usually occurs within 3 growing seasons. Height reductions in blue grama can also be expected during the initial growing season, with recovery likely after the 2nd growing season [181]. In the mixed prairie, blue grama may be favored by early and mid-spring burning [181,218,222]. On a site in the northern mixed prairie of Saskatchewan, blue grama growth increased following a late spring prescribed burn [269]. In the mixed prairie of North Dakota, both spring (May) and fall (October) fires increased blue grama production with spring burning resulting in the greater increase [368]. In a Kansas study, blue grama was least abundant on unburned sites and most abundant on early spring-burned sites. On one site in particular, the unburned pasture averaged 4.5% plant composition blue grama, late-spring burning averaged 31%, mid-spring burning 40%, and early-spring burning 47% blue grama [246]. In the 1st and 2nd growing seasons following a spring burn in Nebraska mixed prairie, blue grama experienced a significant increase (p<0.10) in basal cover on burned plots compared to unburned plots [308]. On sites in South Dakota, blue grama increased from 4 to 11% cover in the 1st growing season following a spring prescribed burn and increased from 12 to 18% cover during the 2nd growing season [136]. Following early spring prescribed burning in Texas, blue grama yield increased up to 400 pounds per acre (452 kg/ha) in the 1st growing season [380]. In a Montana study, prescribed burning resulted in increased yields over unburned areas, though initial late spring growth was greater on unburned plots [375]. Spring burning (April) of blue grama stimulated production by mid- or late June, while fall burning (October) stimulated production to a lesser degree [374,375]. 

In the Alberta blue grama steppe, however, dry matter production was reduced 50% (from prefire production) during the 1st season following a spring fire and reduced 15% during the 2nd season, with recovery complete the 3rd season. Fall burning resulted in a 30% decrease in production, with recovery complete by the 2nd postburn season [94]. Whisenant and Uresk [368] also found that prescribed burning in April reduced blue grama growth during the initial growing season. In studies in South Dakota, spring (April) burning was found to reduce productivity of blue grama whereas response to fall (October) burning was variable; increasing production when precipitation was adequate and decreasing it when precipitation was low. Late June prescribed burning in New Mexico inhibited blue grama growth throughout the growing season, though at the end of the season in October, blue grama on control sites was not significantly greater in height than on burned sites. Blue grama biomass was also not significantly different between burn and control plots, demonstrating that blue grama can recover from burning during the course of the growing season relative to controls [163]. 

Plant response to prescribed fire: During the 1st growing season following a fall fire in Nebraska, blue grama on the burned site initially had greater phytomass than blue grama on the control site. By the end of the growing season, however, the unburned site had relatively greater phytomass than the burned site [262]. Trlica [346] found that the root crown circumference of blue grama increased 10 to 15% following spring, summer, and fall prescribed fire treatments, with similar increases occurring in control treatments also. Seedstalk production of blue grama in this study experienced greater increases following the fall burns than the spring and summer burns, though all burn treatments resulted in greater seedstalk production than the control. According to Pieper and others [278], season of burning had no significant effect (p<0.05) on height of blue grama plants, nor did plant heights differ between burned and unburned plots. Burning combined with nitrogen fertilizer, however, significantly increased (p<0.05) blue grama seedstalk heights and densities over those on the control and burned-only plots. There was no significant difference in seedstalk height and density between burned and unburned plots.

Other management considerations: A 3- to 4-month rest from grazing is recommended after fire [380].

  • 19. Anderson, Howard G.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1980. Effects of annual burning on grassland in the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 985-996. [3499]
  • 94. Clarke, S. E.; Tisdale, E. W.; Skoglund, N. A. 1943. The effects of climate and grazing practices on short-grass prairie vegetation in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Technical Bulletin No. 46/Publication No. 747. Ottawa, ON: Ministry of Agriculture. 53 p. [635]
  • 136. Easterly, Thomas G.; Jenkins, Kurt J. 1991. Forage production and use on bighorn sheep winter range following spring burning in grassland and ponderosa pine habitats. Prairie Naturalist. 23(4): 193-200. [19277]
  • 246. McMurphy, Wilfred Eugene. 1963. Burning Flint Hills grassland: effects on range condition, forage production, and soil moisture. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University. 139 p. Dissertation. [37433]
  • 346. Trlica, M. J., Jr. 1967. The effects of seasons and directions of burning on the native vegetation of the Texas High Plains. Lubbock, TX: Texas Technological College. 65 p. Thesis. [28670]
  • 51. Bock, Jane H.; Bock, Carl E. 1987. Fire effects following prescribed burning in two desert ecosystems. Final Report: Cooperative Agreement No. 28-03-278. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 20 p. [12321]
  • 105. Collins, Scott L.; Glenn, Susan M.; Gibson, David J. 1995. Experimental analysis of intermediate disturbance and initial floristic composition: decoupling cause and effect. Ecology. 76(2): 486-492. [25697]
  • 159. Gibson, David J.; Towne, Gene. 1995. Dynamics of big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) in ungrazed Kansas tallgrass prairie. In: Hartnett, David C., ed. Prairie biodiversity: Proceedings, 14th North American prairie conference; 1994 July 12-16; Manhattan, KS. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University: 9-15. [28220]
  • 163. Gosz, Rusty J.; Gosz, James R. 1996. Species interactions on the biome transition zone in New Mexico: response of blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and black grama (Bouteloua eripoda) to fire and herbivory. Journal of Arid Environments. 34((1): 101-114. [30424]
  • 181. Higgins, Kenneth F.; Kruse, Arnold D.; Piehl, James L. 1989. Effects of fire in the Northern Great Plains. Ext. Circ. EC-761. Brookings, SD: South Dakota State University, Cooperative Extension Service; South Dakota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. 47 p. [14749]
  • 262. Morrison, Linda C.; DuBois, John D.; Kapustka, Lawrence A. 1986. The vegetational response of a Nebraska Sandhills grassland to a naturally occurring fall burn. Prairie Naturalist. 18(3): 179-184. [1696]
  • 269. Nernberg, Dean J. 1995. Landscape prairie restoration: a mixed-grass prairie perspective. In: Hartnett, David C., ed. Proceedings, 14th North American prairie conference: prairie biodiversity; 1994 July 12-16. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University: 185-197. [27573]
  • 278. Pieper, Rex D.; Dwyer, Don D.; Wile, William W. 1973. Burning and fertilizing blue grama range in south-central New Mexico. Bulletin 611. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 21 p. [4533]
  • 308. Schacht, Walter; Stubbendieck, J. 1985. Prescribed burning in the loess hills mixed prairie of southern Nebraska. Journal of Range Management. 38(1): 47-51. [2071]
  • 368. Whisenant, Steven G.; Uresk, Daniel W. 1989. Burning upland, mixed prairie in Badlands National Park. Prairie Naturalist. 21(4): 221-227. [11151]
  • 374. White, R. S.; Currie, P. O. 1981. Prescribed burning in northern mixed grass prairies. In: Field day proceedings. Miles City, MT: Livestock and Range Research Station: 40-43. [2538]
  • 375. White, Richard S.; Currie, Pat O. 1983. Prescribed burning in the Northern Great Plains: yield and cover responses of 3 forage species in the mixed grass prairie. Journal of Range Management. 36(2): 179-183. [2541]
  • 380. Wright, Henry A. 1974. Effect of fire on southern mixed prairie grasses. Journal of Range Management. 27(6): 417-419. [2614]
  • 222. Knutson, Herbert; Campbell, John B. 1976. Relationships of grasshoppers (Acrididae) to burning, grazing, and range sites of native tallgrass prairie in Kansas. In: Tall Timbers conference on ecological animal control by Habitat management: Proceedings; 1974 February 28 - March 1; Gainesville, FL. Number 6. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 107-120. [17851]
  • 218. Kirsch, Leo; Kruse, Arnold. 1978. Fire effects: mixed prairie - North Dakota. In: Linne, James M., ed. BLM guidelines for prairie/plains plant communities to incorporate fire use/management into activity plans and fire use plans. In: Prairie prescribed burning symposium and workshop: Proceedings; 1978 April 25-28; Jamestown, ND. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]. 5 p. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, MT. [30648]
  • 381. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W.; Thompson, Rita P. 1978. The role and use of fire in the Great Plains: A-state-of-the-art-review. In: Linne, James M., ed. BLM guidelines for prairie/plains plant communities to incorporate fire use/management into activity plans and fire use plans. In: Prairie prescribed burning symposium and workshop: Proceedings; 1978 April 25-28; Jamestown, ND. [Place of publication unknown]: [Publisher unknown]: VIII-1 to VIII-39. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [13614]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: fire exclusion

Fire exclusion, and subsequent woody plant invasion, has resulted in blue grama
decline. Combined effects of fire exclusion, agriculture, and other development
has reduced blue grama populations by 48% (based upon herbarium records) in the
Appalachians [231].
  • 231. Laughlin, Daniel C. 2003. Geographic distribution and dispersal mechanisms of Bouteloua curtipendula in the Appalachian Mountains. American Midland Naturalist. 149: 268-281. [43950]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: cover, frequency

Fire favors blue grama, generally increasing its occurrence, production, and percent cover [20,29,135,136,246,323,324,367]. Blue grama frequency may increase but productivity may decrease for a few years following fire [28]. Blue grama has on-site surviving rhizomes that may be stimulated by fire [57,255]. Response of blue grama to fire may be dependant on precipitation following the fire; "wet" years tend to increase blue grama yield [286]. Blue grama seed [367] and seedstalk production may also be stimulated by fire [346].
  • 20. Anderson, Kling L.; Smith, Ed F.; Owensby, Clenton E. 1970. Burning bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 23: 81-92. [323]
  • 28. Arnold, Joseph F. 1950. Changes in ponderosa pine bunchgrass ranges in northern Arizona resulting from pine regeneration and grazing. Journal of Forestry. February: 118-126. [352]
  • 29. Arnold, Joseph F.; Jameson, Donald A.; Reid, Elbert H. 1964. The pinyon-juniper type of Arizona: effects of grazing, fire and tree control. Production Research Report No. 84. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 28 p. [353]
  • 57. Bradley, Anne F.; Noste, Nonan V.; Fischer, William C. 1992. Fire ecology of forests and woodlands in Utah. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-287. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. 128 p. [18211]
  • 135. Dwyer, Don D.; Pieper, Rex D. 1967. Fire effects on blue grama-pinyon-juniper rangeland in New Mexico. Journal of Range Management. 20: 359-362. [833]
  • 136. Easterly, Thomas G.; Jenkins, Kurt J. 1991. Forage production and use on bighorn sheep winter range following spring burning in grassland and ponderosa pine habitats. Prairie Naturalist. 23(4): 193-200. [19277]
  • 246. McMurphy, Wilfred Eugene. 1963. Burning Flint Hills grassland: effects on range condition, forage production, and soil moisture. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University. 139 p. Dissertation. [37433]
  • 255. Mitchell, Jerry M. 1984. Fire Management Action Plan: Zion National Park, Utah. Record of Decision. Salt Lake City, UT: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Unpublished report on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 73 p. [17278]
  • 286. Rasmussen, G. Allen; McPherson, Guy R.; Wright, Henry A. 1986. Prescribed burning juniper communities in Texas. Management Note 10. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, College of Agricultural Sciences. 5 p. [4043]
  • 323. Smith, Michael A. 1985. Prescribed burning of big sagebrush in Wyoming. In: Fisser, Herbert G., ed. Wyoming shrublands: Proceedings, 14th Wyoming shrub ecology workshop; 1985 May 29-30; Rock Springs, WY. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Department of Range Management, Wyoming Shrub Ecology Workshop: 41-45. [13910]
  • 324. Smith, Michael A.; Dodd, Jerrold L.; Rodgers, J. Daniel. 1985. Prescribed burning on Wyoming rangeland. Bulletin 810. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Agricultural Extension Service. 25 p. [2176]
  • 346. Trlica, M. J., Jr. 1967. The effects of seasons and directions of burning on the native vegetation of the Texas High Plains. Lubbock, TX: Texas Technological College. 65 p. Thesis. [28670]
  • 367. Whisenant, Steven G.; Uresk, Dan W. [n.d.]. Effects of fire on vital attributes of a South Dakota, mixed prairie. Draft manuscript. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 23 p. [17135]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Blue grama is top-killed by fire. 

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: graminoid, secondary colonizer, tussock

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [333]:
Tussock graminoid
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)
  • 333. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species comprising secondary plant succession in Northern Rocky Mountain forests. FEIS workshop: Postfire regeneration. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 10 p. [20090]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: cover, density, fire frequency, frequency, shrub, succession

In grassland ecosystems, fires may occur in any year, provided the grass is cured and ready to burn. In the plains grasslands, mean fire intervals likely range from 4 to 20 years depending on climates and ignition sources. Fire in grasslands can burn over large areas until a break in terrain or a change in weather stops the fire [275]. In desert grasslands where blue grama may dominate, reductions in fire frequency result in shrub invasion and substantially less grass cover [300]. Fire occurring during periods of drought combined with wind erosion may retard the process of succession [275].

Grassland fuels, generally fine fuels, burn readily. However, compact arrangement of stems in the "tufts" of bunchgrasses makes this portion of the plant difficult to ignite. Once ignited, they can smolder for long periods of time if enough material has accumulated. Plant density is a critical factor in a grassland's ability to propagate fire. Heat output is relatively low, so fairly continuous fuels are necessary for fire to spread [275]. 

FIRE REGIMES for plant communities and ecosystems in which blue grama occurs are summarized below. For further information regarding FIRE REGIMES and fire ecology of communities and ecosystems where blue grama is found, see the 'Fire Ecology and Adaptations' section of the FEIS species summary for the plant community or ecosystem dominants listed below.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
Nebraska sandhills prairie Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium
bluestem-Sacahuista prairie Andropogon littoralis-Spartina spartinae
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [275]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [306]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 15-40 [26,75,253]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40**) [354,383]
saltbush-greasewood Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica 5-100 
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp.
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii
blue grama-tobosa prairie Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica 275]
curlleaf mountain-mahogany* Cercocarpus ledifolius 13-1000 [27,312]
mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70 
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum
Ceniza shrub Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. 275]
Mexican pinyon Pinus cembroides 20-70 [258,339]
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-49 [275]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [25,32,234]
galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea 275]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-120 [25,170,249]
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa
mesquite-buffalo grass Prosopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa 275]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (10**) [24,25]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp.
shinnery Quercus mohriana
blackland prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Nassella leucotricha
Fayette prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. 275]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary
**mean
  • 24. Arno, Stephen F. 1980. Forest fire history in the Northern Rockies. Journal of Forestry. 78(8): 460-465. [11990]
  • 25. Arno, Stephen F. 2000. Fire in western forest ecosystems. In: Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. Wildland fire in ecosystems: Effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol. 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 97-120. [36984]
  • 26. Arno, Stephen F.; Gruell, George E. 1983. Fire history at the forest-grassland ecotone in southwestern Montana. Journal of Range Management. 36(3): 332-336. [342]
  • 27. Arno, Stephen F.; Wilson, Andrew E. 1986. Dating past fires in curlleaf mountain-mahogany communities. Journal of Range Management. 39(3): 241-243. [350]
  • 32. Baisan, Christopher H.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1990. Fire history on a desert mountain range: Rincon Mountain Wilderness, Arizona, U.S.A. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 20: 1559-1569. [14986]
  • 75. Burkhardt, Wayne J.; Tisdale, E. W. 1976. Causes of juniper invasion in southwestern Idaho. Ecology. 57: 472-484. [565]
  • 170. Gruell, G. E.; Loope, L. L. 1974. Relationships among aspen, fire, and ungulate browsing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 33 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Region. [3862]
  • 234. Laven, R. D.; Omi, P. N.; Wyant, J. G.; Pinkerton, A. S. 1980. Interpretation of fire scar data from a ponderosa pine ecosystem in the central Rocky Mountains, Colorado. In: Stokes, Marvin A.; Dieterich, John H., tech. coords. Proceedings of the fire history workshop; 1980 October 20-24; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-81. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 46-49. [7183]
  • 249. Meinecke, E. P. 1929. Quaking aspen: A study in applied forest pathology. Tech. Bull. No. 155. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 34 p. [26669]
  • 253. Miller, Richard F.; Rose, Jeffery A. 1995. Historic expansion of Juniperus occidentalis (western juniper) in southeastern Oregon. The Great Basin Naturalist. 55(1): 37-45. [25666]
  • 258. Moir, William H. 1982. A fire history of the High Chisos, Big Bend National Park, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist. 27(1): 87-98. [5916]
  • 275. Paysen, Timothy E.; Ansley, R. James; Brown, James K.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Haase, Sally M.; Harrington, Michael G.; Narog, Marcia G.; Sackett, Stephen S.; Wilson, Ruth C. 2000. Fire in western shrubland, woodland, and grassland ecosystems. In: Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. Wildland fire in ecosystems: Effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol. 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 121-159. [36978]
  • 300. Rumble, Mark A.; Gobeille, John E. 2004. Avian use of successional cottonwood (Populus deltoides) woodlands along the middle Missouri River. The American Midland Naturalist. 152: 165-177. [1217]
  • 306. Sapsis, David B. 1990. Ecological effects of spring and fall prescribed burning on basin big sagebrush/Idaho fescue--bluebunch wheatgrass communities. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 105 p. Thesis. [16579]
  • 312. Schultz, Brad W. 1987. Ecology of curlleaf mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) in western and central Nevada: population structure and dynamics. Reno, NV: University of Nevada. 111 p. Thesis. [7064]
  • 339. Swetnam, Thomas W.; Baisan, Christopher H.; Caprio, Anthony C.; Brown, Peter M. 1992. Fire history in a Mexican oak-pine woodland and adjacent montane conifer gallery forest in southeastern Arizona. In: Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Bennett, Duane A.; Hernandez C., Victor Manuel; Ortega-Rubio, Alfred; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. Ecology and management of oak and associated woodlands: perspectives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico: Proceedings; 1992 April 27-30; Sierra Vista, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-218. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 165-173. [19759]
  • 354. Vincent, Dwain W. 1992. The sagebrush/grasslands of the upper Rio Puerco area, New Mexico. Rangelands. 14(5): 268-271. [19698]
  • 383. Young, James A.; Evans, Raymond A. 1981. Demography and fire history of a western juniper stand. Journal of Range Management. 34(6): 501-505. [2659]

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Successional Status

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More info for the terms: climax, competition, cover, litter, tiller, tree

Blue grama is primarily a late seral to climax grass species [44,103,110,114,140,173,212,283,298,299,304,343], though it may appear infrequently in early seral vegetation as isolated clumps [110]. When it occurs as an understory species, blue grama is found primarily in open forests [190,191,344]. Pieper [277] found that blue grama biomass  increased substantially with reductions in pinyon-juniper canopy cover. Though not tolerant of shade [207,277,315,334,355], blue grama is not affected as much by canopy cover as it is by accumulations of tree litter, which may reduce blue grama production [202]. Root competition from trees in forested areas may also reduce the growth of blue grama [203]. In the tall grass prairie, blue grama forms a late-seral short grass stage with buffalo grass; these two species make up approximately half the cover during this seral stage [287].

Following disturbance, recolonization of blue grama is a relatively slow process that differs depending on the spatial extent of the disturbed patch. Disturbances smaller than an individual plant reduce blue grama cover by killing tillers, and recolonization is primarily by tiller replacement from the damaged plant. As patch size increases and entire blue grama plants are killed, recolonization is through seedling establishment. As a result, these larger disturbances not only reduce cover but also kill individual plants [98]. However, distance from a disturbed patch to areas bordering the disturbed area may have a greater effect than size of the disturbance on recovery time of blue grama [99]. Coffin and others [103] found that blue grama is likely to recolonize agricultural fields (large disturbances) in shortgrass prairie systems within 50 years of abandonment, while also subject to grazing. Establishment of blue grama may be slowed on continuously disturbed areas because fewer pre-existing plants may survive over long periods of disturbance [304]. Recovery of blue grama on disturbed sites may be constrained by soil texture, climatic factors, and seed production and availability [102,103], as well as by type and intensity of disturbance [104]. Recovery of blue grama is greatly favored by increased moisture content and deeper soils [110].

  • 44. Bird, Ralph D. 1961. Ecology of the aspen parkland of western Canada in relation to land use. Contribution No. 27. Ottawa: Canada Department of Agriculture, Research Branch. 153 p. [15620]
  • 98. Coffin, D. P.; Lauenroth, W. K. 1988. The effects of disturbance size and frequency on a shortgrass plant community. Ecology. 69(5): 1609-1617. [6692]
  • 99. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1989. Disturbances and gap dynamics in a semiarid grassland: a landscape-level approach. Landscape Ecology. 3(1): 19-27. [38658]
  • 102. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1994. Successional dynamics of a semiarid grassland: effects of soil texture and disturbance size. Vegetation. 110(1): 67-82. [23088]
  • 103. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K.; Burke, Ingrid C. 1996. Recovery of vegetation in a semiarid grassland 53 years after disturbance. Ecological Applications. 6(2): 538-555. [28426]
  • 104. Coffin, Debra P.; Laycock, William A.; Lauenroth, William K. 1998. Disturbance intensity and above- and belowground herbivory effects on long-term (14 y) recovery of a semiarid grassland. Plant Ecology. 139(2): 221-233. [34885]
  • 110. Costello, David F. 1944. Natural revegetation of abandoned plowed land in the mixed prairie association of northeastern Colorado. Ecology. 25(3): 312-326. [25703]
  • 114. Coupland, Robert T. 1961. A reconsideration of grassland classification in the northern Great Plains of North America. Journal of Ecology. 49: 135-167. [12588]
  • 140. Erdman, James A. 1970. Pinyon-juniper succession after natural fires on residual soils of Mesa Verde, Colorado. Brigham Young University Science Bulletin: Biological Series. 11(2): 1-26. [11987]
  • 173. Hanks, Jess P.; Fitzhugh, E. Lee; Hanks, Sharon R. 1983. A habitat type classification system for ponderosa pine forests of northern Arizona. Gen. Tech Rep. RM-97. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 22 p. [1072]
  • 190. Hull, A. C., Jr.; Johnson, W. M. 1955. Range seeding in the ponderosa pine zone in Colorado. Circular 953. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 40 p. [20356]
  • 191. Humphrey, R. R. 1950. Arizona range resources: II. Yavapai County. Bull. 229. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 55 p. [5088]
  • 202. Jameson, Donald A. 1966. Pinyon-juniper litter reduces growth of blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 19(4): 214-217. [1251]
  • 203. Jameson, Donald A. 1970. Juniper root competition reduces basal area of blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 23(3): 217-218. [1253]
  • 207. Johnsen, Thomas N., Jr. 1962. One-seeded juniper invasion of northern Arizona grasslands. Ecological Monographs. 32(3): 187-207. [1267]
  • 212. Judd, B. I.; Jackson, M. L. 1939. Natural succession of vegetation on abandoned farm lands in the Rosebud soil area of western Nebraska. Journal of the American Society of Agronomy. 31(6): 541-557. [29788]
  • 277. Pieper, Rex D. 1990. Overstory-understory relations in pinyon-juniper woodlands in New Mexico. Journal of Range Management. 43(5): 413-415. [13089]
  • 283. Quinnild, Clayton L.; Cosby, Hugh E. 1958. Relicts of climax vegetation on two mesas in western North Dakota. Ecology. 39(1): 29-32. [1925]
  • 287. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
  • 298. Ross, Robert L.; Hunter, Harold E. 1976. Climax vegetation of Montana: Based on soils and climate. Bozeman, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 64 p. [2028]
  • 299. Ross, Robert L.; Murray, Earl P.; Haigh, June G. 1973. Soil and vegetation inventory of near-pristine sites in Montana. Bozeman, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 55 p. [2029]
  • 304. Samuel, Marilyn J.; Hart, Richard H. 1994. Sixty-one years of secondary succession on rangelands of the Wyoming high plains. Journal of Range Management. 47: 184-191. [23026]
  • 315. Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 1989. Blue grama. Fact Sheet. Amarillo, TX: Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 2 p. [18012]
  • 343. Tolstead, W. L. 1941. Plant communities and secondary succession in south-central South Dakota. Ecology. 22(3): 322-328. [5887]
  • 344. Tolstead, W. L. 1947. Woodlands in northwestern Nebraska. Ecology. 28(2): 180-188. [18407]
  • 355. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Western Energy and Land Use Team. 347 p. Available from NTIS, Springfield, VA 22161; PB-83-167023. [2458]
  • 334. Story, Art. [n.d.]. [Grass booklet]. Greeley, CO: Garrison Seed & Co., Inc. Unpublished booklet on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 88 p. [12765]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: adventitious, competition, formation, natural, presence, tiller

Blue grama is readily established from seed [261,274,349], but depends more on vegetative reproduction [237,261,274].

Breeding system: No information

Pollination: No information

Seed production: Seed production of blue grama is generally low, but may be plentiful in favorable years [112,198,316]. Seed yields of 100 to 180 pounds per acre (112 kg/ha) have been obtained from natural stands [349]. Amount of seed produced by blue grama depends on whether moisture is plentiful and temperatures are cool during the period of blossoming and seed formation [138,349]. Seed production may also be reduced by shading [207]. In years of good growing conditions, blue grama may produce 2 or 3 seed crops [315]. Presence of seed heads and seed head densities of blue grama may be increased by repeated annual burning [18,19]. 

Seed dispersal: Blue grama seed is dispersed by wind [99], insects [377], ingestion by large herbivores [272,282], and by adhesion to animal hides, fur, and feathers [231,329]. Wind disperses seed a few meters. In a seed dispersal study in Pennsylvania, Laughlin [231] found best seed dispersal occurred when blue grama fruits adhered to elk and bison fur. Since both ungulates are extirpated from large portions of their former range, long-distance seed dispersal of blue grama may be adversely affected. Fragmented populations are "trapped," with few opportunities for seed dispersal and population exchanges of genetic traits.

Seed banking: No information

Germination: In the tall grass prairie of Kansas and Nebraska, Blake [48] found that blue grama germination rates ranged between 3 and 31% over a 4-year period. In laboratory experiments, the highest rates of blue grama germination were achieved at day/night temperatures of 85/64.5 degrees Fahrenheit (29.5/18 oC), compared to 2 other treatments at 55.5/44.5 degrees Fahrenheit (13/7 oC) and 75/55.5 degrees Fahrenheit (24/13 oC), respectively. Jordan and Haferkamp [211] found the minimum germination temperature of blue grama to be approximately 51 degrees Fahrenheit (10.6 oC), while Knipe [220] achieved 94% germination at constant temperatures ranging from 60 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (140-212 oC). Increases in the level of water stress generally cause a delay in the initiation and a decline in the rate of germination [52,221].

Seedling establishment/growth: Blue grama seedling establishment, survival, and growth are highest when isolated from neighboring adult plants. Adult blue grama plants effectively exploit water stored in the soil zone used by blue grama seedlings, increasing competition and decreasing seedling emergence and root development [5]. Competition with other grasses may also reduce survival [303] and development [5] of blue grama seedlings. In field experiments at the Central Plains Experimental Range in northeast Colorado, Aguilera and Lauenroth [5] found the emergence of seedlings 20 days after seeding was 1 order of magnitude higher without neighboring adult plants than with neighbors (p<0.0001). Seedlings growing without the presence of active roots from neighboring adults had more leaves (p<0.0001) and were taller (p<0.0001) than seedlings growing with active roots present. At the end of the growing season, seedlings with neighbors excluded had more tillers and adventitious roots than seedlings with neighbors present (p<0.0001). A 2nd study further supports these conclusions, finding that establishment of blue grama seedlings was promoted by gap disturbances that involved removal of established adult blue grama plants [6]. Increased opening size may also affect blue grama seedlings, resulting in higher emergence and greater survival rates [5]. Blue grama seedlings develop rapidly; they may tiller when only 21 days old and flower at 2 months [265].

Consistent blue grama establishment requires average soil temperatures above 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 oC), 2 properly spaced 2- to 4-day periods with a continuously moist soil surface (1 for emergence and 1 for adventitious root development), and a soil water potential of -0.3 bars in the 0 to 15 inch (0-40 cm) zone at the time of emergence [378]. Blue grama seedlings have a single seminal root that is short-lived; therefore, seedling establishment requires development and extension of adventitious roots [66,268,355]. Ries and Svejcar [295] found that development of adventitious roots in the northern Great Plains occurred approximately 14 days after blue grama seedling emergence. Light is an important factor in the formation of adventitious roots. In laboratory experiments, blue grama seedlings only formed adventitious roots at the soil surface [297]. Under usual range conditions, the development of adventitious roots is initiated in dry soil and seedling mortality may result [296,297]. 

Asexual regeneration: The principal means of blue grama reproduction is by tillering [112,237,261].

  • 5. Aguilera, Manuel O.; Lauenroth, William K. 1993. Seedling establishment in adult neighborhoods--intraspecific constraints in the regeneration of the bunchgrass Bouteloua gracilis. Journal of Ecology. 81(2): 253-261. [38655]
  • 6. Aguilera, Manuel O.; Lauenroth, William K. 1995. Influence of gap disturbances and type of microsites on seedling establishment in Bouteloua gracilis. Journal of Ecology. 83: 87-97. [25702]
  • 19. Anderson, Howard G.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1980. Effects of annual burning on grassland in the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 985-996. [3499]
  • 48. Blake, Abigail Kincaid. 1935. Viability and germination of seeds and early life history of prairie plants. Ecological Monographs. 5(4): 405-460. [22086]
  • 52. Bokhari, U. G.; Singh, J. S.; Smith, F. M. 1975. Influence of temperature regimes and water stress on the germination of three range grasses and its possible ecological significance to a shortgrass prairie. Journal of Applied Ecology. 12: 153-163. [26139]
  • 66. Briske, D. D.; Wilson, A. M. 1977. Temperature effects on adventitious root development in blue grama seedlings. Journal of Range Management. 30(4): 276-280. [513]
  • 99. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1989. Disturbances and gap dynamics in a semiarid grassland: a landscape-level approach. Landscape Ecology. 3(1): 19-27. [38658]
  • 112. Coupland, Robert T. 1950. Ecology of mixed prairie in Canada. Ecological Monographs. 20(4): 271-315. [700]
  • 138. Ellison, Lincoln; Woolfolk, E. J. 1937. Effects of drought on vegetation near Miles City, Montana. Ecology. 18(3): 329-336. [6264]
  • 198. Jackson, Carola V. 1928. Seed germination in certain New Mexico range grasses. Botanical Gazette. 86: 270-294. [3688]
  • 207. Johnsen, Thomas N., Jr. 1962. One-seeded juniper invasion of northern Arizona grasslands. Ecological Monographs. 32(3): 187-207. [1267]
  • 211. Jordan, Gilbert L.; Haferkamp, Marshal R. 1989. Temperature responses and calculated heat units for germination of several range grasses and shrubs. Journal of Range Management. 42(1): 41-45. [6083]
  • 220. Knipe, O. D. 1967. Influence of temperature on the germination of some range grasses. Journal of Range Management. 20: 298-299. [114]
  • 221. Knipe, O. D. 1968. Effects of moisture stress on germination of alkali sacaton, galleta, and blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 21: 3-4. [119]
  • 231. Laughlin, Daniel C. 2003. Geographic distribution and dispersal mechanisms of Bouteloua curtipendula in the Appalachian Mountains. American Midland Naturalist. 149: 268-281. [43950]
  • 237. Lippert, Robert D.; Hopkins, Harold H. 1950. Study of viable seeds in various habitats in mixed prairie. Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science. 53(3): 355-364. [1461]
  • 261. Morris, H. E.; Booth, W. E.; Payne, G. F.; Stitt, R. E. 1950. Important grasses on Montana ranges. Bull. No. 470. Bozeman, MT: Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. 52 p. [5520]
  • 265. Mueller, Irene M. 1941. An experimental study of rhizomes of certain prairie plants. Ecological Monographs. 11: 165-188. [25837]
  • 268. Nason, Debora A.; Cuany, Robin L.; Wilson, A. M. 1987. Recurrent selection in blue grama. I. Seedling water uptake and shoot weight. Crop Science. 27(5): 847-851. [35165]
  • 272. Ocumpaugh, W. R.; Swakon, D. H. D. 1993. Crop quality & utilization: Simulating grass seed passage through the digestive system of cattle: a laboratory technique. Crop Science. 33: 1084-1090. [46668]
  • 274. Parker, Karl G. 1975. Some important Utah range plants. Extension Service Bulletin EC-383. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 174 p. [9878]
  • 282. Quinn, James A.; Mowrey, Daniel P.; Emanuele, Stephen M.; Whalley, Ralph D. B. 1994. The "foliage is the fruit" hypothesis: Buchloe dactyloides (Poaceae) and the shortgrass prairie of North America. American Journal of Botany. 81(12): 1545-1554. [24408]
  • 295. Ries, R. E.; Svejcar, T. J. 1991. The grass seedling: when is it established? Journal of Range Management. 44(6): 574-576. [38411]
  • 296. Roohi, Rakhshan; Jameson, Donald A. 1991. The effect of hormone, dehulling and seedbed treatments on germination and adventititious root formation in blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 44(3): 237-241. [38409]
  • 297. Roohi, Rakhshan; Jameson, Donald A.; Nemati, Nasser. 1991. The effect of light on adventititious root formation in blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 44(2): 184-185. [38408]
  • 303. Samuel, Marilyn J.; Hart, Richard H. 1992. Survival and growth of blue grama seedlings in competition with western wheatgrass. Journal of Range Management. 45: 444-448. [19429]
  • 315. Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 1989. Blue grama. Fact Sheet. Amarillo, TX: Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 2 p. [18012]
  • 316. Shaw, A. F.; Cooper, C. S. 1973. The interagency forage, conservation and wildlife handbook. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, Extension Service. 205 p. [5666]
  • 329. Sorensen, Anne E. 1986. Seed dispersal by adhesion. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 17: 443-463. [46667]
  • 349. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1948. Grass: The yearbook of agriculture 1948. Washington, DC. 892 p. [2391]
  • 355. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Western Energy and Land Use Team. 347 p. Available from NTIS, Springfield, VA 22161; PB-83-167023. [2458]
  • 377. Wicklow, D.T.; Kumar, Rabinder; Lloyd, J.E. 1984. Germination of blue grama seeds buried by dung beetles ( Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae). Environmental Entomology. 13(3): 878-881. [2547]
  • 378. Wilson, A. M.; Briske, D. D. 1979. Seminal and adventitious root growth of blue grama seedlings on the Central Plains. Journal of Range Management. 32(3): 209-213. [2578]
  • 18. Anderson, Howard A. 1978. Annual burning and vegetation in the aspen parkland of east central Alberta. In: Dube, D. E., compiler. Fire ecology in resource management: Workshop proceedings; 1977 December 6-7; [Edmonton, AB]. Information Report NOR-X-210. Edmonton, AB: Environment Canada, Canadian Forestry Service, Northern Forest Research Centre: 2-3. Abstract. [317]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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More info for the term: geophyte

RAUNKIAER [287] LIFE FORM:
Geophyte
  • 287. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]

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Life Form

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Graminoid

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Broad-scale Impacts of Fire

Blue grama has variable fire tolerance; it has fair tolerance when dormant but experiences some damage if burned during active growth, especially during drought [355].
  • 355. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Western Energy and Land Use Team. 347 p. Available from NTIS, Springfield, VA 22161; PB-83-167023. [2458]

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: severity

Blue grama is a warm season grass species [28,47,55,107,131]. Growth of blue grama begins late in the season [94,112,349], depending on soil temperature [94] and how much moisture is available [188,349]. In 1 study in the Northern Great Plains, blue grama growth did not begin until soil temperatures at 6-inch (15.2 cm) depths averaged 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 oC) [94]. Growth may cease during long droughts, but begins again upon return of favorable moisture and temperature conditions [7,94,113,118,161,177,188,207,261,349,365]. In a field study in northern Colorado, blue grama demonstrated a rapid response to a simulated 0.2-inch (5 mm) rainfall event following a period of water stress [302]. The severity of the drought, however, may determine the ability of blue grama to recover. New blue grama root growth in response to increased moisture availability depends on duration of the soil water increase. Blue grama responds to a small rainfall event following a period of drought by increasing the water uptake of surviving roots. However, after a large rainfall event, water absorption is the result of uptake by both surviving and new roots [229]. Blue grama can effectively mobilize, utilize, and replenish total nonstructural carbohydrates during short periods of favorable growing conditions, contributing to both its drought tolerance and rapid regrowth capability [250].

Growth of blue grama generally begins from mid-April [161,240] to June [315,319] and continues into October [123], reaching maturation in 2 months [76,112,240,261,315]. Tillering occurs in early June in the central Great Plains [319]. Greatest increases in blue grama leaf area generally occur in June [259], and maximum leaf heights may be reached as early as mid-June [240] or late July [161]. Blue grama flowers from July to August, with seeds ripening and dispersing from August to October [123,240]. 

Flowering of blue grama is dependent on geographic distribution, occurring earlier to later along both north/south and west/east gradients [245].  In the northern Great Plains, blue grama flowering occurs primarily in July [81,112,161]; in the central Great Plains, flowering occurs from July through August [123,319]. In Montana, blue grama is finished flowering by mid-July [137]. Blue grama flowers from July to October in New Mexico [241], Arizona [215] and Texas [124]. Flowering of blue grama is also directly impacted by immediate moisture availability, and later flowering of a population may be due to later availability of moisture [245]. Blue grama seeds usually mature in late summer [137,188,316,349] or fall [30,107,112], and seed heads ripen rapidly as they near maturity [349]. Senescence occurs in late October or early November [123]. Approximately 12% of overwintering blue grama shoots become reproductive [319].

  • 7. Albertson, F. W. 1937. Ecology of mixed prairie in west central Kansas. Ecological Monographs. 7: 483-547. [5057]
  • 28. Arnold, Joseph F. 1950. Changes in ponderosa pine bunchgrass ranges in northern Arizona resulting from pine regeneration and grazing. Journal of Forestry. February: 118-126. [352]
  • 30. Atkins, M. D.; Smith, James E., Jr. 1967. Grass seed production and harvest in the Great Plains. Farmers' Bulletin 2226. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 30 p. [5535]
  • 47. Blaisdell, James P.; Holmgren, Ralph C. 1984. Managing Intermountain rangelands--salt-desert shrub ranges. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-163. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 52 p. [464]
  • 76. Burzlaff, Donald F. 1962. A soil and vegetation inventory and analysis of three Nebraska Sandhills range sites. Research Bulletin 206. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska College of Agriculture, Agricultural Experiment Station. 33 p. [21600]
  • 81. Callow, J. Michael; Kantrud, Harold A.; Higgins, Kenneth F. 1992. First flowering dates and flowering periods of prairie plants at Woodworth, North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist. 24(2): 57-64. [20450]
  • 94. Clarke, S. E.; Tisdale, E. W.; Skoglund, N. A. 1943. The effects of climate and grazing practices on short-grass prairie vegetation in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Technical Bulletin No. 46/Publication No. 747. Ottawa, ON: Ministry of Agriculture. 53 p. [635]
  • 107. Cooper, H. W.; Smith, James E., Jr.; Atkins, M. D. 1957. Producing and harvesting grass seed in the Great Plains. Farmers' Bulletin 2112. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 30 p. [27329]
  • 112. Coupland, Robert T. 1950. Ecology of mixed prairie in Canada. Ecological Monographs. 20(4): 271-315. [700]
  • 113. Coupland, Robert T. 1958. The effects of fluctuations in weather upon the grasslands of the Great Plains. Botanical Review. 24(5): 273-317. [12502]
  • 118. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 123. Dickinson, C. E.; Dodd, Jerrold L. 1976. Phenological pattern in the shortgrass prairie. The American Midland Naturalist. 96(2): 367-378. [799]
  • 124. Diggs, George M., Jr.; Lipscomb, Barney L.; O'Kennon, Robert J. 1999. Illustrated flora of north-central Texas. Sida Botanical Miscellany, No. 16. Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 1626 p. [35698]
  • 131. Duebbert, Harold F.; Jacobson, Erling T.; Higgins, Kenneth F.; Podoll, Erling B. 1981. Establishment of seeded grasslands for wildlife habitat in the prairie pothole region. Special Scientific Report: Wildlife No. 234. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 21 p. [5740]
  • 161. Goetz, Harold. 1963. Growth and development of native range plants in the mixed grass prairie of western North Dakota. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 141 p. Thesis. [5661]
  • 177. Hazlett, Donald L. 1992. Leaf area development of four plant communities in the Colorado steppe. The American Midland Naturalist. 127(2): 276-289. [18195]
  • 188. Hoover, Max M.; Hein, M. A.; Dayton, William A.; Erlanson, C. O. 1948. The main grasses for farm and home. In: Grass: The yearbook of agriculture--1948. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture: 639-700. [1190]
  • 207. Johnsen, Thomas N., Jr. 1962. One-seeded juniper invasion of northern Arizona grasslands. Ecological Monographs. 32(3): 187-207. [1267]
  • 215. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 229. Lauenroth, W. K.,Sala O. E.,Milchunas, D. G.;Lathrop, R. W. 1987. Root dynamics of Bouteloua gracilis during short-term recovery from drought. Functional Ecology. 1: 117-124. [6349]
  • 240. Manske, Llewellyn Leo. 1980. Habitat, phenology and growth of selected sandhills range plants. Fargo, ND: North Dakota State University. 154 p. Dissertation. [4549]
  • 241. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 245. McMillan, C. 1959. The role of ecotypic variation in the distribution of the central grassland of North America. Ecological Monographs. 29: 285-308. [5523]
  • 250. Menke, John W.; Trlica, M. J. 1981. Carbohydrate reserve, phenology, and growth cycles of nine Colorado range species. Journal of Range Management. 34(4): 269-277. [1639]
  • 259. Monson, Russell K.; Sackschewsky, Michael R.; Williams, George J.,III. 1986. Field measurements of photosynthesis, water-use efficiency, and growth in Agropyron smithii (C3) and Bouteloua gracilis (C4) in the Colorado shortgrass steppe. Oecologia. 68: 400-409. [4512]
  • 261. Morris, H. E.; Booth, W. E.; Payne, G. F.; Stitt, R. E. 1950. Important grasses on Montana ranges. Bull. No. 470. Bozeman, MT: Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. 52 p. [5520]
  • 302. Sala, O. E.; Lauenroth, W. K. 1982. Small rainfall events: an ecological role in semiarid regions. Oecologia. 53(3): 301-304. [35373]
  • 315. Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 1989. Blue grama. Fact Sheet. Amarillo, TX: Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 2 p. [18012]
  • 316. Shaw, A. F.; Cooper, C. S. 1973. The interagency forage, conservation and wildlife handbook. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, Extension Service. 205 p. [5666]
  • 319. Sims, P. L.; Lang'at, R. K.; Hyder, D. N. 1973. Developmental morphology of blue grama and sand bluestem. Journal of Range Management. 26(5): 340-344. [5537]
  • 349. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1948. Grass: The yearbook of agriculture 1948. Washington, DC. 892 p. [2391]
  • 365. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 55. Borland, Dorothy F. 1988. Native grasses for urban use. In: Davis, Arnold; Stanford, Geoffrey, eds. The prairie: roots of our culture; foundation of our economy: Proceedings, 10th North American prairie conference; 1986 June 22-26; Denton, TX. Dallas, TX: Native Prairie Association of Texas: 04.04 [2 p.]. [25588]
  • 137. Eddleman, Lee E. 1978. Survey of viability of indigenous grasses, forbs and shrubs: techniques for initial acquisition and treatment for propagation in preparation for future land reclamation in the Fort Union Basin. RLO-2232-T2-3: Annual Progress Report--June 1, 1977 to May 31, 1978. [Washington, DC]: U.S. Energy and Development Administration. 232 p. [Prepared for U.S. Energy and Development Contract No. EY-76-S-06-2232, Task Agreement #2]. On file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [5639]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Bouteloua gracilis

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


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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Bouteloua gracilis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 5
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N4 - Apparently Secure

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Bouteloua gracilis occurs throughout southwestern Canada, throughout the southwestern and central United States into western Mexico, rarely into the eastern United States (Welsh, 1993).

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Romand-Monnier, F.

Reviewer/s
Scott, J.A.

Contributor/s

Justification
Chondrosum gracile is rated as Least Concern due to the very large geographic range, ruderal habit, abundance and dominance in several grassland communities, evidence of naturalisation outside its native range and potential invasiveness.
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Though it is widespread and globally secure [197], blue grama is vulnerable to extinction in some localized areas.  In Idaho, blue grama is classified a state priority plant with imperiled status. This designation is based on species' rarity or because some factors demonstrably make it vulnerable to extinction. The Bureau of Land Management lists blue grama as "sensitive" in Idaho, either due to a declining population or its' occurrence in localized or unique habitats [197,332].

In Missouri, blue grama is ranked "critically imperiled" due to extreme rarity or vulnerability to extirpation from the state [254].
  • 197. Idaho Fish and Game Department. 2002. Idaho's rare vascular plants, [Online]. Available: http://www2.state.id.us/fishgame/info/cdc/plants/vasc_plants&status_a-d.htm [2002, February 15]. [40115]
  • 254. Missouri Department of Transportation. 2001. Endangered species checklist (flowering plants), [Online]. Available: http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/nathis/endangered/checklst [2002, February 22]. [40937]
  • 332. Steele, Robert; Brunsfeld, Steven J.; Henderson, Douglass M.; [and others]. 1981. Vascular plant species of concern in Idaho. Bulletin No. 34. Moscow, ID: University of Idaho, College of Forestry, Wildlife and Range Sciences, Forest, Wildlife and Range Experiment Station. 161 p. [2229]

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Status

Please consult the PLANTS Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status (e.g. threatened or endangered species, state noxious status, and wetland indicator values).

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Population

Population
This North American plaingrass is known from ca 3,300 botanical records. It is widespread and abundant (specimen data) and dominant in several grassland communities. The taxon is considered an agricultural weed (Darbyshire 2003, Global Compendium of Weeds, online accessed on the 29th of September 2009) and may be a noxious weed in native grasslands outside its area of origin. The size of the population is unknown.

Population Trend
Increasing
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Threats

Major Threats
There is no known threat to this wide ranging, ruderal, abundant species.
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Pests and potential problems

Grasshoppers damage blue grama stands and consume forage. The white grub larvae of the common green June beetle (Cotia nitida) feed on roots and can cause stand loss. Mankin (1969) detailed several leaf and tar spot and rust diseases common on blue grama found in South Dakota.

Harlan et al. (1956) warned of thrip and gall midge infestations occurring in blue grama seed production fields.

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species occurs within numerous conservation units throughout its range. The taxon may be a threat to the biodiversity of some ecosystems outside its native range.
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Management considerations

More info for the terms: cover, density, frequency, resistance, tiller, tree

Blue grama production may increase following overstory-removal treatments in
pinyon-juniper communities [95,97]. Clary and Jameson [97] found that blue grama production increased from 31 kg/ha pretreatment to
350 kg/ha posttreatment.

Blue grama may substantially retard growth of tree seedlings, reducing their
size, branching, and vigor [325]. 

Blue grama provides year-long grazing, but rotational grazing is recommended
to promote vigor and herbage production [274,347]. Blue
grama cover and net primary productivity are higher under short-duration grazing
strategies than continuous grazing strategies [373]. Blue grama is generally tolerant of grazing
[49,144,336,365], increasing under
grazing pressure [20,43,44,62,87,187,209,219,225,293,318,322,328,345] and resisting trampling
[219,238,336]. Blue grama withstands clipping or grazing more effectively when grazed
after it has matured or when it is only slightly grazed during its growing
period [261,347]. Blue grama possesses primarily
culmless vegetative shoots in which the actively growing tissue is not elevated
to within reach of grazing animals, so potential for rapid regrowth is
preserved [21,62]. In one study, blue grama plants on
grazed sites allocated a higher percentage of biomass and nitrogen to the roots,
while those plants on ungrazed areas allocated a higher percentage to
aboveground production, demonstrating a potential strategy for responding to
grazing impacts [205]. 

Blue grama is often more prevalent on areas
subject to grazing than on areas where grazing has been excluded [204,206,227,288,309,320,326]. Sims and others
[318] found that blue grama
production increased more in response to heavy grazing treatments than to light,
moderate or control treatments. In North Dakota, relative basal cover of blue grama
was significantly lower (p<0.05) on sites protected from grazing than on
sites subject to grazing treatments [43]. In a mixed grass
community in southwestern North Dakota, cover of blue grama was lower in
exclosures than in the adjacent grazed areas [61]. The relative basal cover (%) of blue grama
on grazed and ungrazed sites was as follows [60]:

 195019511952195919761977
grazed57.770.466.176.166.351.7
ungrazed32.618.122.626.827.018.4


However, there was little difference herbage production on grazed versus ungrazed sites,
due to significantly (p<0.0041) increased height of blue grama on the
ungrazed site [60]. On pinyon-juniper sites in Arizona over a 13-year
period, blue grama decreased on grazed sites, though a greater decrease was
observed with the exclusion of grazing [29]. At the Central
Plains Experiment Station, a study conducted over 2 years found that blue grama
basal cover was greater on "heavily grazed" than on "lightly
grazed" sites [84]. In contrast, Smith [322] found that blue grama
increased 8-fold on lightly grazed sites, 4-fold under moderate grazing, and
only 1.25-fold under heavy grazing in Colorado. 

Blue grama may decrease if subject to
continued heavy grazing [20,94,205], especially when accompanied by dry conditions
[232]. Heavy
grazing also encourages a sod-forming rather than bunchgrass growth habit in
blue grama [179,193,194,208]. Heavy grazing can potentially
reduce tillering and tiller weight, and decrease concentrations of total
nonstructural carbohydrates in blue grama forage [292,305].
Large increases in the basal cover of blue grama in the mixed prairie
combined with decreases in the cover of other species, like needle-and-thread
grass, may
indicate deterioration of range conditions [264,328].
Buwai and Trlica [80] found
that repeated defoliation treatments reduced herbage yield and vigor of blue
grama plants below that of undefoliated control plants. In general, basal
cover (%) was less for heavily defoliated plants than for moderately defoliated
plants, and all heavily defoliated plants had at least a 50% reduction in basal
cover as compared with the undefoliated plants. Defoliation
also reduced plant heights 40 to 80% below that of undefoliated control
plants. In a Colorado study, frequency of blue grama plants increased with
light, moderate, and heavy grazing levels while biomass decreased relative to
ungrazed areas [176]. In a New Mexico study, blue grama density was not significantly
different between grazed and ungrazed sites. However, blue grama percent cover
was substantially higher on ungrazed sites than on grazed sites following a
severe drought [155]. Clipping treatments to simulate grazing in New
Mexico did not result in significant changes (relative to controls) in blue
grama height or biomass at the end of the growing season, demonstrating the
ability of blue grama to recover quickly [163].
Trlica and others [347], however, found that blue grama required more than 26 months of
rest to recover its vigor following repeated heavy defoliations.

Frequent grazing or clipping of
blue grama may encourage top-growth; however, it may result in poor root growth
[45,94,322]. However, Santos and Trlica [305] found that frequent clipping (2- and 4-week
intervals) of blue grama resulted in reduced biomass of both crowns and root. Buwai and Trlica
[79,80] found that repeated defoliation
treatments did not impact root weight or carbohydrate reserves of blue
grama. The authors suggest that blue grama's resistance to clipping or grazing
may be related to its ability to maintain adequate root growth by transferring
more assimilated carbohydrate to belowground root production [79], or to the ability of defoliated plants to remain in a semi-dormant stage
throughout most of the growing season while unclipped plants use their stored
carbohydrates for growth [80]. Grazing may also impact the reproductive ability of blue grama; Coffin and
Lauenroth [101] found that the average weight of reproductive structures was
greater and more than twice as many viable seeds were produced per flowering
culm on ungrazed than grazed locations. 

Blue grama production generally responds positively to fertilizer inputs,
including nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc [134,294,370,371,379]. Blue grama production (kg/ha) was significantly greater (p < 0.05) with
sludge application rates of 10, 20, and 40 tons per acre (22.5, 45, 90 Mg/ha)
[4].
During the 1st and 2nd growing seasons, yields ranged from 1.5 to 2.7 times
greater in the treated plots than in the unamended plots. Sludge amendments also
increased the nutritional value of blue grama, resulting in higher nitrogen,
phosphorus, potassium, and crude protein tissue concentrations. However,
Fresquez and others [152] found that while production increased with
applications of 10, 20, and 40 tons per acre (22.5, 45, 90 Mg/ha), only the 40-ton
(90 Mg/ha) treatment resulted
in significantly increased production compared to the control plots. Trace metals in
plant tissue did not increase significantly in either study [4,151].
In a New Mexico
study, blue grama height was significantly increased (p<0.05) with the
application of 40 pounds of nitrogen per acre (45 kg/ha) compared to the control. The 60
pounds per acre (67.5 kg/ha) application did not result in significantly greater heights than
the 40-pound treatment, and the density of blue grama increased significantly
(p<0.05) in response to each of the treatment levels [134]. In a
greenhouse experiment, root and shoot biomass of blue grama increased with
addition of both nitrogen and phosphorus [294]. In
contrast, Smoliak [327] found that blue grama basal areas decreased following
applications of nitrogen fertilizer and manure. Another study conducted in North Dakota found that blue grama
exhibited a decreasing trend in basal cover with increasing nitrogen application
rates [162]. Nitrogen fertilization may also worsen the effects of
drought on blue grama [196]. 

Chemically thinning dense blue grama stands may result in increased herbage
and seed production [242]. Blue grama is greatly reduced initially by applications of
atrazine, sylvex, picloram,
and 2,4-D [158,242]. However, within 5 years of picloram application, blue grama recovers vigorously, producing a large amount of foliage and many
seed heads [158]. Atrazine applications, however, may also have
long-term negative effects on blue grama and soil processes [252]. Germination of blue grama seeds may be
suppressed by applications of picloram and triclopyr [189]. Atrazine, picloram, and 2,4-D may be useful in encouraging the
production or rapid establishment of
blue grama based on their control of competing plants [59,158,166,201]. 

Mechanical treatments (e.g. ripping and furrowing) result in decreased blue
grama production [169,361].

Prairie dog mound building in the Great Plains may result in a substantial
decrease in the size of blue grama clumps and patches, with blue grama cover
increasing as distance from prairie dog burrows increases. The prairie dog habit
of scratching topsoil from the area around burrows breaks larger patches of blue
grama into smaller clumps [53]. Pocket-gopher disturbances also
have a lower basal cover (%) of blue grama than surrounding areas [84].
  • 20. Anderson, Kling L.; Smith, Ed F.; Owensby, Clenton E. 1970. Burning bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 23: 81-92. [323]
  • 29. Arnold, Joseph F.; Jameson, Donald A.; Reid, Elbert H. 1964. The pinyon-juniper type of Arizona: effects of grazing, fire and tree control. Production Research Report No. 84. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 28 p. [353]
  • 43. Biondini, Mario E.; Manske, Llewellyn. 1996. Grazing frequency and ecosystem processes in a northern mixed prairie, USA. Ecological Applications. 6(1): 239-256. [26566]
  • 44. Bird, Ralph D. 1961. Ecology of the aspen parkland of western Canada in relation to land use. Contribution No. 27. Ottawa: Canada Department of Agriculture, Research Branch. 153 p. [15620]
  • 49. Bock, Carl E.; Bock, Jane H. 1988. Grassland birds in southeastern Arizona: impacts of fire, grazing, and alien vegetation. In: Goriup, Paul D., ed. Ecology and conservation of grassland birds; 1986 June; Kingston, ON. ICBP Tech. Pub. No. 7. Cambridge, UK: International Council for Bird Preservation: 43-58. [27613]
  • 94. Clarke, S. E.; Tisdale, E. W.; Skoglund, N. A. 1943. The effects of climate and grazing practices on short-grass prairie vegetation in southern Alberta and southwestern Saskatchewan. Technical Bulletin No. 46/Publication No. 747. Ottawa, ON: Ministry of Agriculture. 53 p. [635]
  • 97. Clary, Warren P.; Jameson, Donald A. 1981. Herbage production following tree and shrub removal in the pinyon-juniper type of Arizona. Journal of Range Management. 34(2): 109-113. [642]
  • 101. Coffin, Debra P.; Lauenroth, William K. 1992. Spatial variability in seed production of the perennial bunchgrass Bouteloua gracilis (Graminaceae). American Journal of Botany. 79(3): 347-353. [18051]
  • 187. Holscher, Clark E.; Woolfolk, E. J. 1953. Forage utilization by cattle on northern Great Plains ranges. Circ. No. 918. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 27 p. [5205]
  • 193. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Arizona range grasses: Description -- forage value -- management. Bulletin 298. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [5004]
  • 196. Hyder, D. N.; Houston, W. R.; Burwell, J. B. 1976. Drought resistance of blue grama as affected by atrazine and N fertilizer. Journal of Range Management. 29(3): 214-216. [35474]
  • 208. Johnson, James R.; Nichols, James T. 1970. Plants of South Dakota grasslands: A photographic study. Bull. 566. Brookings, SD: South Dakota State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 163 p. [18483]
  • 261. Morris, H. E.; Booth, W. E.; Payne, G. F.; Stitt, R. E. 1950. Important grasses on Montana ranges. Bull. No. 470. Bozeman, MT: Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. 52 p. [5520]
  • 264. Mueggler, W. F.; Stewart, W. L. 1980. Grassland and shrubland habitat types of western Montana. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-66. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 154 p. [1717]
  • 274. Parker, Karl G. 1975. Some important Utah range plants. Extension Service Bulletin EC-383. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 174 p. [9878]
  • 347. Trlica, M. J.; Buwai, M.; Menke, J. W. 1977. Effects of rest following defoliations on the recovery of several range species. Journal of Range Management. 30(1): 21-27. [2360]
  • 365. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 4. Aguilar, Richard. 1993. Rehabilitation of southwestern rangelands using sewage sludge: technology applicable to pinyon-juniper ecosystems? In: Aldon, Earl F.; Shaw, Douglas W., technical coordinators. Managing pinon-juniper ecosystems for sustainability and social needs: Proceedings; 1993 April 26-30; Santa Fe, NM. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-236. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 126-132. [22863]
  • 21. Anderson, Loren D. 1991. Bluebunch wheatgrass: Defoliation effects and vigor recovery--a review. Tech. Bull. 91-2. Boise, ID: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Idaho State Office. 21 p. [18257]
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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS:formerly Soil Conservation Service) office for more information. Look in the phone book under ”United States Government”. The Natural Resources Conservation Service will be listed under the subheading “Department of Agriculture.”

‘Lovington’ was released as a cultivar in 1963 by New Mexico AES and the Los Lunas Plant Materials Center. The original source of the material was a field harvest in 1944 near Lovington, New Mexico. It was bulk increased and tested as A-12424. It has uniform size, leafiness, excellent seedling vigor

and fast establishment characteristics.

‘Hachita’ was a cooperative release between the Los Lunas PMC and Colorado and New Mexico AES’s in 1980. Source material was originally collected in 1957 south of Hachita, New Mexico in a 250mm precipitation zone at an altitude of 1220 meters. It is the most drought tolerant of blue grama materials tested in New Mexico.

‘Alma’ was a cooperative cultivar release with USDA Agriculture Research Service, Los Lunas New Mexico PMC, and the Colorado and New Mexico AES’s in 1992. The cultivar was a composite of 270 plants from Hachita, Lovington and PMK-1483. The material was screened initially for heavier caryopsis weights, increased seedling vigor and greater emergence from deeper soil depths. Its intended use was for rangeland improvement and go back cropland seeding in southern and central Great Plains.

Bad River Ecotype blue grama was a selected release from the North Dakota PMC, North Dakota Association of Conservation Districts and the North and South Dakota AES in 1996. Its origin is Haakon County in central South Dakota on the floodplain of the Bad River. The intended use is the Northern Great Plains, USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3. Bad River establishes readily and has consistent plant performance compared to native harvest materials.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Seed production

To consistently produce grass seed of any species the most important first step is to obtain a uniform, clean stand of grass. Skips and thin spots in the row invite weeds and other competing species which will cause trouble later. Weeds must be controlled the year of seeding and in subsequent years. However, careful weed control the initial year of seeding will provide a more uniform stand in the seed field and less work in subsequent years.

Cultivation and herbicide applications along with hand weeding in the row will provide an even stand of grass that after the first year will provide reduced labor when harvesting, cleaning and processing the seed crop. The most important factor in producing blue grama seed is time of bloom. In Oklahoma, blue grama should bloom in September to fill completely (Harlan et al. 1956). If growth is promoted by early rain then seed field should be mowed several times or grazed heavily. The first inflorescences should be removed and the stand should be encouraged to remain vegetative until fall.

The first irrigation should be applied in mid-August along with the first nitrogen fertilization.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Once established this grass is palatable to livestock year around. Growing points of this grass are low and near the grounds surface, thus close grazing by livestock can be allowed. To obtain the best forage yields, grazing should be deferred once every two to three years. Blue grama cures well on the stem making it a good grass for deferred grazing during its dormant period. Weed control can be accomplished by mowing, controlled grazing or herbicide applications.

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USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

More info for the terms: adventitious, reclamation

Because of its wide adaptation, ease of establishment, and economic value, blue grama is used extensively for conservation purposes [106,199,349], rangeland seeding [15,65,178,200,247,284,334], and landscaping [55,195,315]. Blue grama is useful for reclamation [143,150,172,248,310,315] and for erosion control in arid and semiarid regions [58,315,334,349,365]. Blue grama growing on abandoned mine sites does not show any significant increase in metal uptake [90]. 

Excellent stands of blue grama have been achieved by broadcast or solid-drill seeding, with a seeding rate of 8 to 12 pounds per acre (9-13.5 kg/ha) [188,349], though others report that blue grama may be difficult to establish by seed [244]. As a general rule, blue grama seeds should be used near their point of origin to achieve maximum planting success [188,349]. Planting depth of 0.25 to 0.5 inches (0.6-1.3 cm) is critical for successful establishment, and blue grama seedling emergence decreases with increased planting depth [74,85]. Redmann and Qi [290] found that blue grama seedling emergence was highest at a planting depth of 0.6 inches (1.5 cm), and emergence decreased to 0% when seeds were sown at 2.5 inches (6 cm). Increased planting depths may result in decreased shoot and root weights of emerging seedlings [86], while at shallower planting depths, the developing seedlings are most likely adversely affected by the rapid drying of the soil. However, heavier blue grama seeds may have greater emergence success from deeper planting depths than lighter seeds [85], which may allow them to take advantage of moisture for germination and emergence [86]. Summer planting and a minimum of 13 inches (330 mm) of annual precipitation is recommended for successful blue grama establishment [285]. Eddleman [137] also recommends planting blue grama seed after soil temperature has reached at least 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 oC). With temperatures of 50 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit (10-20 oC), blue grama seeds germinated at rates of 85 to 91%. A blue grama germination rate of 88% was achieved with night/day temperatures of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 oC) and 86 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (30-35 oC), respectively [64]. Other research has found that more than 88% of blue grama seeds may germinate in about 2 days when subject to a range of alternating temperatures of 80 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (27-37 oC) for 8 hours and 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit (35-37 oC) for 16 hours. Constant temperatures of 61, 81, and 99 degrees Fahrenheit (16, 27, and 37 oC) resulted in 100% germination in mean times of 6, 2.4, and 2 days, respectively. Moisture stress did not inhibit germination of blue grama until stress exceeded -10 bars [301].

If done early in the growing season, transplanting blue grama as sod may result in successful establishment. Sod should be 2 inches (5 cm) thick and wet before cutting; after transplanting, sod should be irrigated as soon as possible. In transplanting studies, 9-week-old blue grama plants were planted in the Sonoran Desert. Survival of blue grama averaged 80% after 2 months and declined to 21% after 32 months [117]. Establishment depends mainly on new adventitious roots produced on recently developed tillers [244]. Under controlled conditions, Briske and Wilson [66] found that temperature impacts blue grama root development, with the greatest number of roots initiated (per seedling) at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 oC) and the greatest root length and weight (per seedling) occurring at 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 oC). The greatest shoot growth was also achieved at 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 oC). Seed used in this experiment was taken from several locations in the Great Plains, and temperature treatments ranged from 41 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit (5-35 oC). Favorable soil moisture conditions also impact adventitious root development, so recommendations for good blue grama establishment include planting when 2 or more consecutive days of precipitation are likely or when temperatures are favorable for emergence and root growth even if consecutive "wet" days are unlikely.

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Cover Value

More info for the terms: cover, density

Blue grama is poor cover for upland game birds and waterfowl, and fair to poor cover for small mammals [125]. Blue grama provides fair nesting cover and is important to some prairie songbirds [273]. The blue grama/kleingrass (Panicum coloratum) cover type in the southern high plains of Texas provides high-quality nesting habitat for ring-necked pheasants, contributing to increased nest success, high nest density, and increased pheasant production [40]. Blue grama and buffalo grass flats provide good nesting sites for mountain plovers in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado [165], and important herbaceous cover for quail in Texas [311]. 
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  • 165. Graul, Walter D.; Webster, Lois E. 1976. Breeding status of the mountain plover. The Condor. 78: 265-267. [25836]
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  • 311. Schramm, Harold L., Jr.; Smith, Loren M.; Bryant, Fred C.; [and others]. 1987. Managing for wildlife with the Conservation Reserve Program. Management Note 11. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, Department of Range and Wildlife Management. 6 p. [9634]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the terms: cover, forbs, shrub

Blue grama is valuable forage for all classes of domestic livestock [87,315,349,355], providing excellent forage for cattle and sheep [73,153,293,351]. Blue grama makes up as much as 40% of the diet of cattle on the shortgrass steppe [16,353]. Blue grama tends to be most productive following summer rains, but it cures well and provides forage year round [191,192,274]. In the northern Great Plains, cattle graze blue grama in both summer and early fall [133,351]. Currie and others [119] found that blue grama became increasingly important in cattle diets late in the season, from August to November, in Central Colorado. Another study found that blue grama was utilized more by cattle from June through March than during spring months [174]. Domestic sheep in Utah use blue grama from spring through fall [168]. As a low growing grass, blue grama may be unavailable during the winter due to snow cover [168,187]. Blue grama is widely used for pasture and less often for hay [334].

Blue grama also provides important forage for mule deer [72,224]. However, in a study on the prairie of north-central Montana, mule deer were not found to browse blue grama, instead favoring forbs and shrub species [133]. Blue grama provides important winter forage for elk in Colorado [185], and provides good forage for pronghorns during all seasons in western Texas and in Kansas [73,273]. Blue grama is only lightly browsed by pronghorn in Utah and Colorado, with use occurring primarily in the spring [36,313]. Blue grama is important summer forage for bighorn sheep in Colorado [342]. It is also an important forage for bison [260,276], and blue grama development plays a role in seasonal bison movements [260].

Scaled quail and some songbirds eat the seeds of blue grama [42]. Small mammals also eat blue grama seeds and stems [110,186], providing an important food source for prairie dogs, pocket gophers, and black-tailed jackrabbits in the Great Plains [54,132,142,273,338,352]. Flower heads and seeds of blue grama are also consumed by grasshoppers, which can all but eliminate an annual seed crop [71,222].

  • 16. Alward, Richard D.; Detling, James K.; Milchunas, Daniel G. 1999. Grassland vegetation changes and nocturnal global warming. Science. 283(5399): 229-231. [37568]
  • 54. Bonham, Charles D.; Lerwick, Alton. 1976. Vegetation changes induced by prairie dogs on shortgrass range. Journal of Range Management. 29(3): 221-225. [3994]
  • 71. Brown, H. Ray. 1943. Growth and seed yields of native prairie plants in various habitats of the mixed-prairie. Transactions, Kansas Academy of Science. 46: 87-99. [26146]
  • 110. Costello, David F. 1944. Natural revegetation of abandoned plowed land in the mixed prairie association of northeastern Colorado. Ecology. 25(3): 312-326. [25703]
  • 153. Frolik, A. L.; Shepherd, W. O. 1940. Vegetative composition and grazing capacity of a typical area of Nebraska sandhill range land. Research Bulletin No. 117. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Agricultural Experimental Station. 39 p. [5417]
  • 187. Holscher, Clark E.; Woolfolk, E. J. 1953. Forage utilization by cattle on northern Great Plains ranges. Circ. No. 918. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 27 p. [5205]
  • 191. Humphrey, R. R. 1950. Arizona range resources: II. Yavapai County. Bull. 229. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 55 p. [5088]
  • 274. Parker, Karl G. 1975. Some important Utah range plants. Extension Service Bulletin EC-383. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 174 p. [9878]
  • 315. Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 1989. Blue grama. Fact Sheet. Amarillo, TX: Sharp Bros. Seed Co. 2 p. [18012]
  • 349. U.S. Department of Agriculture. 1948. Grass: The yearbook of agriculture 1948. Washington, DC. 892 p. [2391]
  • 355. Wasser, Clinton H. 1982. Ecology and culture of selected species useful in revegetating disturbed lands in the West. FWS/OBS-82/56. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Biological Services, Western Energy and Land Use Team. 347 p. Available from NTIS, Springfield, VA 22161; PB-83-167023. [2458]
  • 36. Beale, Donald M.; Smith, Arthur D. 1970. Forage use, water consumption, and productivity of pronghorn antelope in western Utah. Journal of Wildlife Management. 34(3): 570-582. [6911]
  • 42. Best, Troy L.; Smartt, Richard A. 1985. Foods of scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) in southeastern New Mexico. Texas Journal of Science. 37(2&3): 155-162. [23520]
  • 72. Bryant, Fred C.; Morrison, Bruce. 1985. Managing plains mule deer in Texas and eastern New Mexico. Management Note 7. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University, College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Range and Wildlife Management. 5 p. [187]
  • 73. Buechner, Helmut K. 1950. Life history, ecology, and range use of the pronghorn antelope in Trans-Pecos Texas. The American Midland Naturalist. 43(2): 257-354. [4084]
  • 119. Currie, P. O.; Reichert, D. W.; Malechek, J. C.; Wallmo, O. C. 1977. Forage selection comparisons for mule deer and cattle under managed ponderosa pine. Journal of Range Management. 30(5): 352-356. [4697]
  • 132. Dunn, John P.; Chapman, Joseph A.; Marsh, Rex E. 1982. Jackrabbits: Lepus californicus and allies. In: Chapman, J. A.; Feldhamer, G. A., eds. Wild mammals of North America: biology, management and economics. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press: 124-145. [25016]
  • 133. Dusek, Gary L. 1975. Range relations of mule deer and cattle in prairie habitat. Journal of Wildlife Management. 39(3): 605-616. [5938]
  • 142. Fagerstone, K. A.; Tietjen, H. P.; Williams, O. 1981. Seasonal variation in the diet of black-tailed prairie dogs. Journal of Mammalogy. 62(4): 820-824. [906]
  • 168. Green, Lisle R.; Sharp, Lee A.; Cook, C. Wayne; Harris, Lorin E. 1951. Utilization of winter range forage by sheep. Journal of Range Management. 4: 233-241. [7891]
  • 174. Hansen, Richard M.; Gold, Ilyse K. 1977. Black-tailed prairie dogs, desert cottontails and cattle trophic relations on shortgrass range. Journal of Range Management. 30(3): 210-214. [4644]
  • 185. Hobbs, N. Thompson; Baker, Dan L.; Ellis, James E.; Swift, David M. 1981. Composition and quality of elk winter diets in Colorado. Journal of Wildlife Management. 45(1): 156-171. [7421]
  • 186. Hoffmann, lyn A.; Redente, Edward F.; McEwen, Lowell C. 1995. Effects of selective seed predation by rodents on shortgrass establishment. Ecological Applications. 5(1): 200-208. [26137]
  • 192. Humphrey, Robert R. 1955. Forage production on Arizona ranges: IV. Coconino, Navajo, Apache counties: A study in range condition. Bulletin 266. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 84 p. [5087]
  • 224. Kufeld, Roland C.; Wallmo, O. C.; Feddema, Charles. 1973. Foods of the Rocky Mountain mule deer. Res. Pap. RM-111. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 31 p. [1387]
  • 260. Morgan, R. Grace. 1980. Bison movement patterns on the Canadian plains: an ecological analysis. Plains Anthropology. 25: 142-160. [1694]
  • 273. Ohlenbusch, Paul D.; Hodges, Elizabeth P.; Pope, Susan. 1983. Range grasses of Kansas. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State University, Cooperative Extension Service. 23 p. [5316]
  • 276. Peden, Donald G. 1976. Botanical composition of bison diets on shortgrass plains. The American Midland Naturalist. 96(1): 225-229. [24596]
  • 293. Reed, Merton J.; Peterson, Roald A. 1961. Vegetation, soil, and cattle responses to grazing on northern Great Plains range. Tech. Bull. 1252. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 79 p. [4286]
  • 313. Schwartz, Charles C.; Nagy, Julius G. 1976. Pronghorn diets relative to forage availability in northeastern Colorado. Journal of Wildlife Management. 40(3): 469-478. [4937]
  • 338. Summers, Carol A.; Linder, Raymond L. 1978. Food habits of the black-tailed prairie dog in western South Dakota. Journal of Range Management. 31(2): 134-136. [2294]
  • 342. Todd, J. W. 1975. Foods of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in southern Colorado. Journal of Wildlife Management. 39(1): 108-111. [6218]
  • 351. Uresk, Daniel W. 1986. Food habits of cattle on mixed-grass prairie on the northern Great Plains. Prairie Naturalist. 18(4): 211-218. [94]
  • 352. Vaughan, Terry A. 1967. Food habits of the northern pocket gopher. The American Midland Naturalist. 77(1): 176-189. [2427]
  • 353. Vavra, M.; Rice, R. W.; Hansen, R. M.; Sims, P. L. 1977. Food habits of cattle on shortgrass range in northeastern Colorado. Journal of Range Management. 30(4): 261-263. [5628]
  • 222. Knutson, Herbert; Campbell, John B. 1976. Relationships of grasshoppers (Acrididae) to burning, grazing, and range sites of native tallgrass prairie in Kansas. In: Tall Timbers conference on ecological animal control by Habitat management: Proceedings; 1974 February 28 - March 1; Gainesville, FL. Number 6. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 107-120. [17851]
  • 87. Casterline & Sons Seeds Inc. [n.d.]. Range plants for the High Plains and Rocky Mountain region. Dodge City, KS: Casterline Seeds. 23 p. [18386]
  • 334. Story, Art. [n.d.]. [Grass booklet]. Greeley, CO: Garrison Seed & Co., Inc. Unpublished booklet on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 88 p. [12765]

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Utilization

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Nutritional Value

When blue grama is green, the leaves are low in fiber and high in protein. It may retain up to 50% of its nutritive value when dormant
[192], and retains approximately 5% protein when dormant [316]. In Colorado, crude protein content of live blue grama averages 10%
throughout the year, with the highest content (18%) occurring during early in
the growing season and the lowest content (8%) occurring just prior to dormancy. Crude protein content does not respond to different
grazing intensities (ungrazed, light, moderate, and heavy grazing) [350]. Fudge and Fraps
[154] found that protein content of blue grama
ranged from 3.3 to 9.8% in Texas, fair to good for cattle forage. In Oklahoma, crude protein of blue grama may range from 4.4% to 17.0%,
calcium may range from 0.17% to 0.48%, and phosphorus may range from 0.07% to
0.31% [226]. The percent composition of air-dried blue grama in Arizona is presented below
[88]:

waterashcrude proteincrude fiberfatN-free extract
6.9814.066.5028.191.8242.45

Nutrient content of blue grama in an Oklahoma plains grassland is presented
below. Data is presented in percent of oven-dry weight and represents means over
5 years [307]:


 CaPProteinFat N-free extractcrude fiberash
summer (April-Sept.)0.3880.21410.082.5748.4830.547.74
winter (Oct.-March)0.2860.0854.321.6249.6136.617.87



Average nutrient concentrations (with standard deviation) of blue grama in a
Central Plains saltgrass meadow were as follows [56]:


 NPKCaMgNaCl
mean (%)1.020.190.700.330.0900.0570.20
SD0.050.030.120.050.0100.0200.02

Nitrogen concentration of senescent blue grama foliage has been reported as
approximately 1% of the dry weight [175]. Calcium,
phosphorus, crude protein, iron, manganese, and magnesium in blue grama decrease with maturity,
though some of these declines may be
halted or mitigated by periods of precipitation [289,331].

Nitrogen fertilization of blue grama rangeland may result in increased
digestibility of dry matter, crude protein, copper, crude fiber, and lignin in blue
grama [216,279]. However, nitrogen fertilized blue
grama may contain less calcium and aluminum than unfertilized blue grama [279].

  • 56. Bowman, R. A.; Mueller, D. M.; McGinnies, W. J. 1985. Soil and vegetation relationships in a Central Plains saltgrass meadow. Journal of Range Management. 38(4): 325-328. [11213]
  • 316. Shaw, A. F.; Cooper, C. S. 1973. The interagency forage, conservation and wildlife handbook. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, Extension Service. 205 p. [5666]
  • 88. Catlin, C. N. 1925. Composition of Arizona forages, with comparative data. In: Bulletin 113. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station: 155-173. [4525]
  • 175. Hargrave, Bert S.; Seastedt, Tim R. 1994. Nitrogen concentrations of senescent foliage in relict tall-grass prairie. Prairie Naturalist. 26(1): 61-66. [38413]
  • 192. Humphrey, Robert R. 1955. Forage production on Arizona ranges: IV. Coconino, Navajo, Apache counties: A study in range condition. Bulletin 266. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 84 p. [5087]
  • 216. Kelsey, R. J.; Nelson, A. B.; Smith, G. S.; Pieper, R. D. 1973. Nutritive value of hay from nitrogen-fertilized blue grama rangeland. Journal of Range Management. 26(4): 292-294. [35016]
  • 226. Langham, Wright; McMillen, Warren N.; Walker, Lamar. 1943. A comparison of carotene, protein, calcium, and phosphorus content of buffalo grass, Buchloe dactyloides, and blue grama, Bouteloua gracilis. Journal of the American Society of Agronomy. 35: 35-42. [1400]
  • 279. Pieper, Rex D.; Kelsey, R. Joe; Nelson, Arnold B. 1974. Nutritive quality of nitrogen fertilized and unfertilized blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 27(6): 470-472. [35168]
  • 289. Rauzi, Frank; Painter, L. I.; Dobrenz, Albert K. 1969. Mineral and protein contents of blue grama and western wheatgrass. Journal of Range Management. 22: 47-49. [1942]
  • 307. Savage, D. A.; Heller V. G. 1947. Nutritional qualities of range forage plants in relation to grazing with beef cattle on the Southern Plains Experimental Range. Tech. Bull. No. 943. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 61 p. [5680]
  • 350. Uresk, D. W.; Sims, Phillip L. 1975. Influence of grazing on crude protein content of blue grama. Journal of Range Management. 28(5): 370-371. [35464]
  • 154. Fudge, J. F.; Fraps, G. S. 1945. The chemical composition of grasses of northwestern Texas as related to soils and to requirements for range cattle. Bulletin No. 669. [Lubbock, TX]: Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. 56 p. [5747]
  • 331. Stanley, E. B.; Hodgson, C. W. 1938. Seasonal changes in the chemical composition of some important Arizona range grasses. Technical Bulletin 73. [Tucson, AZ]: Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station: 451-466. [4424]

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Palatability

Blue grama is highly palatable forage [65,192,193,365], and retains its palatability when mature or during dry periods
[261]. The following table presents livestock palatability ratings for blue
grama [125]:

 ColoradoMontanaNorth DakotaUtahWyoming
cattlegoodgoodgoodgoodgood
domestic sheepgoodgoodgoodfairgood
horsesgoodgoodgoodgoodgood
  • 65. Bridges, J. O. 1942. Reseeding practices for New Mexico ranges. Bulletin 291. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 48 p. [5204]
  • 125. Dittberner, Phillip L.; Olson, Michael R. 1983. The Plant Information Network (PIN) data base: Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. FWS/OBS-83/86. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. 786 p. [806]
  • 193. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Arizona range grasses: Description -- forage value -- management. Bulletin 298. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [5004]
  • 261. Morris, H. E.; Booth, W. E.; Payne, G. F.; Stitt, R. E. 1950. Important grasses on Montana ranges. Bull. No. 470. Bozeman, MT: Montana Agricultural Experiment Station. 52 p. [5520]
  • 365. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 192. Humphrey, Robert R. 1955. Forage production on Arizona ranges: IV. Coconino, Navajo, Apache counties: A study in range condition. Bulletin 266. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 84 p. [5087]

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Uses

Forage: A highly palatable grass for livestock on a year long basis. It is used sparingly by antelope and other wildlife species. Blue grama rates with buffalograss as one of the most important forage plants of the short-grass prairie (Weaver, 1926)

Erosion control: Blue grama can be used in mixtures with other grasses for use in erosion control situations. It is commonly used as a low maintenance turf planting, such as rough areas of a golf course or between rows in multiple row wind break plantings and in locations prone to drought. It is also used in surface mine re-vegetation plantings.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS Plant Materials Center, Manhattan, Kansas.

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Bouteloua gracilis

Blue grama grass, Bouteloua gracilis, is a long-lived, warm-season, C4 perennial grass, native to North America.[1] It is most commonly found from Alberta, Canada, east to Manitoba and south across the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and U.S. Midwest states to Mexico. Blue grama accounts for most of the net primary productivity in the shortgrass prairie of the central and southern Great Plains. It is a green or greyish, low-growing, drought-tolerant grass with limited maintenance.[2]

Description[edit]

Blue grama grows on a wide array of topographic positions, and in a range of well-drained soil types, from fine to coarse textured.

Blue grama grass in early summer

The Bouteloua gracilis plant height at maturity ranges from 15–30 centimetres (6–12 in). The roots generally extend 30–46 centimetres (12–18 in) from the edge of the plant, and 0.9–1.8 metres (3–6 ft) deep. Maximum rooting depth is approximately 2 metres (7 ft). Blue grama is green to greyish in appearance.

Blue grama is readily established from seed, but depends more on vegetative reproduction via tillers. Seed production is slow, and depends on soil moisture and temperature. Seeds dispersed by wind only reach a few meters (~6 ft); farther distances are reached with insects, birds, and mammals as dispersal agents. Seedling establishment, survival, and growth are greatest when isolated from neighboring adult plants, which effectively exploit water in the seedling's root zone. Successful establishment requires a modest amount of soil moisture during the extension and development of adventitious roots.

Established plants are grazing-, cold-, and drought-tolerant, though prolonged drought leads to a reduction in root number and extent. They employ an opportunistic water-use strategy, rapidly using water when available, and becoming dormant during less-favorable conditions. In terms of successional status, blue grama is a late seral to climax species. Recovery following disturbance is slow and depends on the type and extent of the disturbance.

Horticulture and agriculture[edit]

Blue grama is valued as forage.

Bouteloua gracilis is grown by the horticulture industry, and used in perennial gardens; naturalistic and native plant landscaping; habitat restoration projects; and in residential, civic, and highway erosion control. Blue Grama flowers are also used in dried flower arrangements.

Blue grama is the state grass of Colorado and New Mexico. It is listed as an endangered species in Illinois.[1]

Single-sided inflorescence


Among the Zuni people, the grass bunches are tied together and the severed end used as a hairbrush, the other as a broom. Bunches are also used to strain goat's milk.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "PLANTS Profile for Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama)", Plants.USDA.gov, June 2012, webpage: Bogr2: has classification; map of North America in 30 U.S. states.
  2. ^ "Blue Grama - Animal & Range Sciences", Montana Univ., AnimalRangeExtension.Montana.edu, 2011, webpage: MBlue.
  3. ^ Stevenson, Matilda Coxe 1915 Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #30 (p. 83)
Sources
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

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Notes

Comments

This is a valuable forage grass native to the North American prairie (Blue Grama).
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

The currently accepted scientific name of blue grama is Bouteloua gracilis
(Willd. ex Kunth) Lag. ex Griffiths (Poaceae)
[118,124,129,130,160,167,184,210,213,241,365].
  • 118. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 124. Diggs, George M., Jr.; Lipscomb, Barney L.; O'Kennon, Robert J. 1999. Illustrated flora of north-central Texas. Sida Botanical Miscellany, No. 16. Fort Worth, TX: Botanical Research Institute of Texas. 1626 p. [35698]
  • 160. Gleason, Henry A.; Cronquist, Arthur. 1991. Manual of vascular plants of northeastern United States and adjacent Canada. 2nd ed. New York: New York Botanical Garden. 910 p. [20329]
  • 167. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 184. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur. 1973. Flora of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 730 p. [1168]
  • 241. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 365. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. The Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]
  • 129. Dorn, Robert D. 1977. Flora of the Black Hills. Cheyenne, WY: Robert D. Dorn and Jane L. Dorn. 377 p. [820]
  • 130. Dorn, Robert D. 1984. Vascular plants of Montana. Cheyenne, WY: Mountain West Publishing. 276 p. [819]
  • 210. Jones, Stanley D.; Wipff, Joseph K.; Montgomery, Paul M. 1997. Vascular plants of Texas. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 404 p. [28762]
  • 213. Kartesz, John T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 1st ed. In: Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Botanical Garden (Producer). In cooperation with: The Nature Conservancy; U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service; U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. [36715]

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Common Names

blue grama

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