Overview

Comprehensive Description

Comments

This is one of the true prairie grasses. Because of its dense tufts of sprawling narrow leaves, there is really nothing else that closely resembles it. While some Sporobolus spp. (Dropseeds) have narrow spike-like inflorescences that are often partially hidden by their sheaths, other species in this genus have long-exerted inflorescences that are airy and open. Prairie Dropseed is a good example of this latter group; it has longer spikelets than other species in this group.
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Description

This native perennial grass forms dense tufts of sprawling leaves about 1-2' tall and 2-3' across. In each tuft, the infertile (flowerless) shoots are more abundant than the fertile (flowering) shoots. One or more flowering culms develop from the center of each leafy clump; these culms are 1½–3' long and usually ascending to erect. Each culm is slender, terete, light green, and hairless. Alternate leaves are located along the lower one-fourth of each culm. The narrow leaf blades are up to 20" long and 2 mm. across; they are medium green, hairless, and either flat or somewhat rolled lengthwise. The leaf sheaths are usually hairless, although a few hairs may be present at their summits. Each fertile culm terminates in a narrowly pyramidal panicle about 3-8" long; because of its naked branches and small spikelets, this panicle has a somewhat airy appearance. The wiry lateral branches of the panicle are 1-3" long and ascending; they subdivide into shorter branchlets that ultimately terminate in individual spikelets. The central axis of the panicle, lateral branches, and branchlets are light green to purple, slender, and hairless. Depending on their stage of development, the spikelets can be olive green, silvery gray, golden yellow, or light tan. Each spikelet is about 4-6 mm. long, consisting of a pair of unequal-sized glumes, a single lemma, a membranous palea, and a floret. One glume is 4-6 mm. long, while the other glume is 2-4 mm. long; the lemma and palea are 3.5–5.5 mm. long. Each floret has 3 reddish anthers and a pair of stigmata that are short, white, and feathery. The florets are wind-pollinated. At maturity, the florets are replaced by globoid grains that are a little less than 2 mm. across; this often causes their paleae to split into two parts. Disarticulation of the spikelets is above the glumes; the grains soon fall to the ground. The root system is fibrous and short-rhizomatous. This grass spreads primarily by reseeding itself.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Distribution

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Prairie Dropseed is occasional in the northern half of Illinois, while in the southern half of the state it is uncommon. Habitats consist primarily of hill prairies, gravel prairies, dolomite prairies, black soil prairies, cemetery prairies, prairie remnants along railroads, and limestone glades. Less often, Prairie Dropseed has been found in savannas, thinly wooded rocky bluffs, and grassy fens. This grass is found primarily in high quality natural areas. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant.
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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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Global Range: From Saskatchewan to Quebec south to Sonora, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Georgia (Kartesz 1999).

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Prairie dropseed is found in 24 states and 4 Canadian provinces with
remnant tallgrass prairie stands. The species is scattered from Wyoming
and Colorado east to Connecticut and Massachusetts and as far south as
Texas [12,23].
  • 12. Kirchhoff, Matthew D. 1983. Black-tailed deer use in relation to forest clearcut edges in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(2): 497-501. [14395]
  • 23. Massey, J. R.; Otte, D. K. S.; Atkinson, T. A.; Whetstone, R. D 1983. 1983. An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-20. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 218 p. [10613]

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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

10 Wyoming Basin
12 Colorado Plateau
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift

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Occurrence in North America

AR CO CT IL IN IA KS KY LA MA
MI MN MO NE NY NC ND OH OK PA
SD TX WI WY MB ON PQ SK

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the term: warm-season

Prairie dropseed is a native, perennial, sod-forming, warm-season grass.
It is 1 to 3 feet (0.5-1 m) tall, densely tufted, with alternate basal
leaves. Its leaves are half as long as its stout culms; the panicles
are purple to black and up to 11.8 inches (30 cm) long [12,23].
  • 12. Kirchhoff, Matthew D. 1983. Black-tailed deer use in relation to forest clearcut edges in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(2): 497-501. [14395]
  • 23. Massey, J. R.; Otte, D. K. S.; Atkinson, T. A.; Whetstone, R. D 1983. 1983. An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-20. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 218 p. [10613]

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Physical Description

Perennials, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, 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 cauline, Leaves conspicuously 2-ranked, distichous, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, Leaf sheath hairy, hispid or prickly, 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 2-10 mm wide, Leaf blade margins folded, involute, or conduplicate, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Leaf blades scabrous, roughened, or wrinkled, Ligule present, Ligule a fringe of hairs, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence an open panicle, openly paniculate, branches spreading, Inflorescence solitary, with 1 spike, fascicle, glomerule, head, or cluster per stem or culm, Inflorescence branches more than 10 to numerous, Flowers bisexual, Spikelets pedicellate, Spikelets laterally compressed, Spikelet less than 3 mm wide, Spikelets with 1 fertil e floret, Spikelets solitary at rachis nodes, Spikelets all alike and fertille, Spikelets bisexual, Spikelets disarticulating above the glumes, glumes persistent, Rachilla or pedicel glabrous, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes distinctly unequal, Glumes shorter than adjacent lemma, Glumes 1 nerved, Lemmas thin, chartaceous, hyaline, cartilaginous, or membranous, Lemma similar in texture to glumes, Lemma 1 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex acute or acuminate, Lemma awnless, Lemma straight, Palea present, well developed, Palea membranous, hyaline, Palea about equal to lemma, Palea 2 nerved or 2 keeled, Stamens 3, Styles 2-fid, deeply 2-branched, Stigmas 2, Fruit - caryopsis, Caryopsis isodiametric, trigonous or globose, broadest at base or beaked, Caryopsis ellipsoid, longitudinally grooved, hilum long-linear.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Ecology

Habitat

Range and Habitat in Illinois

Prairie Dropseed is occasional in the northern half of Illinois, while in the southern half of the state it is uncommon. Habitats consist primarily of hill prairies, gravel prairies, dolomite prairies, black soil prairies, cemetery prairies, prairie remnants along railroads, and limestone glades. Less often, Prairie Dropseed has been found in savannas, thinly wooded rocky bluffs, and grassy fens. This grass is found primarily in high quality natural areas. It is also cultivated as an ornamental plant.
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Source: Illinois Wildflowers

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Habitat characteristics

More info for the term: mesic

Prairie dropseed is a tallgrass species that grows in mesic prairies,
well-drained moraines, rock outcrops, glades, pine savannahs and
barrens, lightly grazed pastures, and along railroad and highway
rights-of-way [3,5,14,23]. In Colorado it grows at elevations between
5,300 and 7,200 feet (1,615-2,195 m) [19]. Soil types in Kansas include
shallow, cherty, clay loams and deep silty, clay loams [15]. In North
Dakota prairie dropseed grows in Hamerly and Barnes soil types in
moderately drained rolling plains [24].

Associates include bluestems (Andropogon/Schizachyrium spp.), gramas
(Bouteloua spp.), junegrass (Koeleria cristata), porcupine grass (Stipa
spartea), panic grass (Panicum spp.), indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans),
northern bedstraw (Galium boreale), common goldstar (Hypoxis hirsuta),
mountain deathcamas (Zygadenus elegans), leadplant (Amorpha canescens),
green milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.),
purple sorrel (Oxalis violacea), phlox (Phlox spp.), and yellow cone
flower (Ratibida pinnata) [2,5,8,]. Species that invade prairie
dropseed areas include Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), smooth brome
(Bromus inermis), and quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) [3].
  • 3. Becker, Donald A. 1989. Five years of annual prairie burns. In: Bragg, Thomas A.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 163-168. [14037]
  • 5. Betz, Robert F. 1978. The prairies of Indiana. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 25-31. [3292]
  • 14. Gartner, F. R. 1986. The many faces of South Dakota rangelands: description and classification. In: Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present and future: Proceedings of the ninth North American prairie conference; 1984 July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University Center for Environmental Studies: 81-85. [3529]
  • 15. Gibson, David J.; Hulbert, Lloyd C. 1987. Effects of fire, topography and year-to-year climatic variation on species composition in tallgrass prairie. Vegetatio. 72: 175-185. [3866]
  • 19. Harrington, H. D. 1964. Manual of the plants of Colorado. 2d ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc. 666 p. [6851]
  • 23. Massey, J. R.; Otte, D. K. S.; Atkinson, T. A.; Whetstone, R. D 1983. 1983. An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-20. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 218 p. [10613]
  • 24. Meyer, Marvis I. 1985. Classification of native vegetation at the Woodworth Station, North Dakota. Prairie Naturalist. 17(3): 167-175. [5432]

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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

FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES39 Prairie

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Habitat: Cover Types

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

42 Bur oak
53 White oak

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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

K017 Black Hills pine forest
K065 Grama - buffalograss
K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass
K069 Bluestem - grama prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K100 Oak - hickory forest

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Associations

Faunal Associations

Occasionally, the foliage is eaten by grasshoppers, including Mermiria bivitatta (Two-Striped Slantfaced Grasshopper) and Syrbula admirabilis (Handsome Grasshopper). Prairie Dropseed is the obligate host of two uncommon leafhoppers
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General Ecology

Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: cover, wildfire

In most prescribed burning studies prairie dropseed was shown to
increase in flower production, height, and cover. It has been described
as an increaser following spring or winter fires [17]. Following an
April wildfire in Wisconsin, flower production increased by 25 times,
cover by 30 times, and average plant height by 4 inches (10 cm) [7].
Other studies on the effects of prescribed burning have shown similar
results [3,10]. Prairie dropseed appears to increase when burned during
winter and spring and decrease when burned during summer or fall [2,16].
Annual fires are less beneficial to prairie dropseed than fires
conducted every 2 to 3 years [1].
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1988. Effects of burning regime on buried seed banks and canopy coverage in a Kansas tallgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist. 33(1): 65-70. [4415]
  • 2. Aldous, A. E. 1934. Effect of burning on Kansas bluestem pastures. Tech. Bull. 38. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Agricultural Experiment Station. 65 p. [5999]
  • 3. Becker, Donald A. 1989. Five years of annual prairie burns. In: Bragg, Thomas A.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 163-168. [14037]
  • 7. Dix, Ralph L.; Butler, John E. 1954. The effects of fire on a dry, thinsoil prairie in Wisconsin. Journal of Range Management. 7: 265-268. [16154]
  • 10. Ehrenreich, John H.; Aikman, John M. 1963. An ecological study of the effect on certain management practices on native prairie in Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 33(2): 113-130. [9]
  • 16. Gibson, David J. 1989. Hulbert's study of factors effecting botanical composition of tallgrass prairie. In: Bragg, Thomas B.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 115-133. [14029]
  • 17. Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Johnson, Louise A.; Jurik, Thomas W.; [and others]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Fire top-kills prairie dropseed [1,2,3,7,10,16,17].
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1988. Effects of burning regime on buried seed banks and canopy coverage in a Kansas tallgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist. 33(1): 65-70. [4415]
  • 2. Aldous, A. E. 1934. Effect of burning on Kansas bluestem pastures. Tech. Bull. 38. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Agricultural Experiment Station. 65 p. [5999]
  • 3. Becker, Donald A. 1989. Five years of annual prairie burns. In: Bragg, Thomas A.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 163-168. [14037]
  • 7. Dix, Ralph L.; Butler, John E. 1954. The effects of fire on a dry, thinsoil prairie in Wisconsin. Journal of Range Management. 7: 265-268. [16154]
  • 10. Ehrenreich, John H.; Aikman, John M. 1963. An ecological study of the effect on certain management practices on native prairie in Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 33(2): 113-130. [9]
  • 16. Gibson, David J. 1989. Hulbert's study of factors effecting botanical composition of tallgrass prairie. In: Bragg, Thomas B.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 115-133. [14029]
  • 17. Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Johnson, Louise A.; Jurik, Thomas W.; [and others]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the terms: graminoid, secondary colonizer

Tussock graminoid
Secondary colonizer - off-site seed

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: climax, codominant

Prairie dropseed is a climax species that is codominant with little
bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) in some community types of Ohio and
Minnesota [8,20]. It codominates with prairie dropseed, big bluestem
(Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii), and indiangrass on remnant mesic
prairies in Indiana [5].
  • 5. Betz, Robert F. 1978. The prairies of Indiana. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 25-31. [3292]
  • 8. Dziadyk, Bohdan; Clambey, Gary K. 1983. Floristic composition of plant communities in a western Minnesota tallgrass prairie. In: Kucera, Clair L., ed. Proceedings, 7th North American prairie conference; 1980 August 4-6; Springfield, MO. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri: 45-54. [3194]
  • 20. Knoop, Jeffrey D. 1986. Floristic and vegetational survey of the W. Pearl King Praire Grove, a prairie remnant in Madison County, Ohio. In: Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present and future: Proceedings, 9th North American prairie conference; 1984 July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University Center for Environmental Studies: 44-49. [3513]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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More info for the term: phanerophyte

Phanerophyte

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Life Form

More info for the term: graminoid

Graminoid

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Plant Response to Fire

Prairie dropseed sprouts and generally increases following fire
[1,2,3,7,10,16,17].

The Research Project Summary, Herbaceous responses to seasonal burning in
experimental tallgrass prairie plots
provides information on postfire response
of plant communities including prairie dropseed in experimental prairie plots
that was not available when this species review was originally written.
  • 1. Abrams, Marc D. 1988. Effects of burning regime on buried seed banks and canopy coverage in a Kansas tallgrass prairie. Southwestern Naturalist. 33(1): 65-70. [4415]
  • 2. Aldous, A. E. 1934. Effect of burning on Kansas bluestem pastures. Tech. Bull. 38. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Agricultural Experiment Station. 65 p. [5999]
  • 3. Becker, Donald A. 1989. Five years of annual prairie burns. In: Bragg, Thomas A.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 163-168. [14037]
  • 7. Dix, Ralph L.; Butler, John E. 1954. The effects of fire on a dry, thinsoil prairie in Wisconsin. Journal of Range Management. 7: 265-268. [16154]
  • 10. Ehrenreich, John H.; Aikman, John M. 1963. An ecological study of the effect on certain management practices on native prairie in Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 33(2): 113-130. [9]
  • 16. Gibson, David J. 1989. Hulbert's study of factors effecting botanical composition of tallgrass prairie. In: Bragg, Thomas B.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 115-133. [14029]
  • 17. Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Johnson, Louise A.; Jurik, Thomas W.; [and others]

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Fire Management Considerations

On prairie sites in Iowa, burning in early spring, after vegetation has
dried but while soils are still frozen, has been recommended [10].
Timing of the burn is important; burning too early may expose soils to
late winter storms, while burning too late may damage emerging plants.
  • 10. Ehrenreich, John H.; Aikman, John M. 1963. An ecological study of the effect on certain management practices on native prairie in Iowa. Ecological Monographs. 33(2): 113-130. [9]

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Regeneration Processes

Prairie dropseed regenerates by seed. In germination tests, seeds
stratified in dry soil for 10 weeks germinated in 7 days; peak
germination occurred in 25 days. Greenhouse temperatures during the day
varied between 70 and 90 degrees F (21-32 deg C) and at night varied
between 40 and 70 degrees F (4-21 deg C) [25]. Other tests showed that
only slightly more seeds germinated when stratified than when
unstratified [18]. Prairie dropseed does not establish well when direct
seeded [25].
  • 18. Greene, H. C.; Curtis, J. T. 1950. Germination studies of Wisconsin prairie plants. American Midland Naturalist. 43(1): 186-194. [4086]
  • 25. Nuzzo, Victoria. 1978. Propagation and planting of prairie forbs and grasses in southern Wisconsin. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 182-189. [3379]

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Prairie dropseed flowers and fruits from August through November
[12,23].
  • 12. Kirchhoff, Matthew D. 1983. Black-tailed deer use in relation to forest clearcut edges in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(2): 497-501. [14395]
  • 23. Massey, J. R.; Otte, D. K. S.; Atkinson, T. A.; Whetstone, R. D 1983. 1983. An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-20. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 218 p. [10613]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sporobolus heterolepis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 6
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Reasons: Widespread: occurs in the eastern three-fourths of United States, and from Alberta to Quebec in Canada. Sporobolus heterolepis is a prairie species with spotty distribution in the eastern part of its range, where it is sometimes found on serpentine, limestone, or other unusual rocky substrates. It has a stronghold in the central United States but becomes rare in the eastern portion of its range.

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Prairie dropseed is endangered in Ohio and North Carolina, and is a
candidate for endangered species listing in Kentucky [20,23].
  • 20. Knoop, Jeffrey D. 1986. Floristic and vegetational survey of the W. Pearl King Praire Grove, a prairie remnant in Madison County, Ohio. In: Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present and future: Proceedings, 9th North American prairie conference; 1984 July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University Center for Environmental Studies: 44-49. [3513]
  • 23. Massey, J. R.; Otte, D. K. S.; Atkinson, T. A.; Whetstone, R. D 1983. 1983. An atlas and illustrated guide to the threatened and endangered vascular plants of the mountains of North Carolina and Virginia. Gen. Tech. Rep. SE-20. Asheville, NC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southeastern Forest Experiment Station. 218 p. [10613]

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Threats

Comments: Highly threatened by succession, and to a lesser extent by land-use conversion, habitat fragmentation, and forest management practices (Southern Appalachian Species Viability Project 2002). In Michigan, this species may be threatened by alterations to hydrology and woody encroahment due to fire supression (Higman and Penskar 1999). In Ohio, this species is threatened by farming of prairies (McCance and Burns 1984). It is also somewhat sensitive to grazers.

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Management

Management considerations

Prairie dropseed will decrease in response to heavy grazing [2,29].
  • 2. Aldous, A. E. 1934. Effect of burning on Kansas bluestem pastures. Tech. Bull. 38. Manhattan, KS: Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science, Agricultural Experiment Station. 65 p. [5999]
  • 29. Whitford, Walter G.; Dick-Peddie, Scott; Walters, David; Ludwig, John A. 1978. Effects of shrub defoliation on grass cover and rodent species in a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments. 1: 237-242. [4403]

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Cultivation

The preference is full sun, mesic to dry conditions, and soil that is loamy, rocky, or gravelly. Because the seeds are difficult to germinate, it is easier to propagate this grass by dividing the dense tufts of leaves. Once it becomes established at a suitable site, Prairie Dropseed is long-lived.
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Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

Prairie dropseed is widely used for roadside revegetation and prairie
rehabilitation projects [9,25]. Planting by hand may be the best method
for establishing this species. Refer to Schramm [28] for other planting
techniques.
  • 9. Ehley, Alan M. 1990. Program encourages use of prairie species on roadsides. Restoration & Management Notes. 8(2): 101-102. [14156]
  • 25. Nuzzo, Victoria. 1978. Propagation and planting of prairie forbs and grasses in southern Wisconsin. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 182-189. [3379]
  • 28. Schramm, Peter. 1978. The "do's and don'ts" of prairie restoration. In: Glenn-Lewin, David C.; Landers, Roger Q., Jr., eds. Proceedings, 5th Midwest prairie conference; 1976 August 22-24; Ames, IA. Ames, IA: Iowa State University: 139-150. [3368]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

Prairie dropseed (prematuration) has been rated as good in forage value
for livestock. It is an important hay and pasture grass in Nebraska
[29].
  • 29. Whitford, Walter G.; Dick-Peddie, Scott; Walters, David; Ludwig, John A. 1978. Effects of shrub defoliation on grass cover and rodent species in a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments. 1: 237-242. [4403]

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Palatability

Prairie dropseed is the most palatable of Sporobolus species in Nebraska
[29].
  • 29. Whitford, Walter G.; Dick-Peddie, Scott; Walters, David; Ludwig, John A. 1978. Effects of shrub defoliation on grass cover and rodent species in a Chihuahuan desert ecosystem. Journal of Arid Environments. 1: 237-242. [4403]

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Other uses and values

Prairie dropseed is used in residential landscapes [6].
  • 6. Diekelmann, John; Howell, Evelyn A.; Harrington, John. 1986. An approach to residential landscaping with prairie. In: Clambey, Gary K.; Pemble, Richard H., eds. The prairie: past, present and future: Proceedings, 9th North American prairie conference; 1984 July 29 - August 1; Moorhead, MN. Fargo, ND: Tri-College University Center for Environmental Studies: 242-248. [3587]

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Wikipedia

Sporobolus heterolepis

Sporobolus heterolepis, commonly known as Prairie dropseed, is a species of prairie grass native to the tallgrass and mixed grass prairies of central North America from Texas to southern Canada. It is also found further east, all the way to the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada, but is much less common beyond the Great Plains and is restricted to specialized habitats. It is found in 24 states and 4 Canadian provinces.

Description[edit source | edit]

Prairie dropseed is a perennial grass that typically grows from 2 to 3 feet in height. It occurs in a wide range of soils, doing well in moist to dry conditions. It is much less common in wetlands.

Prairie dropseed is a fine-textured grass with long, narrow leaves that arch outward, forming attractive round tufts. The leaves range in color from a rich green hue in summer to a golden rust complexion in the fall. Foliage is resilient enough to resist flattening by snow, so it provides year-round interest. From late July to mid-September, the grass blooms with rusty-tan flowers that rise 30 to 36 inches in height.

Uses[edit source | edit]

Gardens[edit source | edit]

The grass is favored by decorative landscapers because of its tendency to grow in bunches. The seedhead is sometimes described as having the vague scent of fresh popcorn, cilantro, or sunflower seeds. Because of its drought tolerance, it has been used on green roofs.

Restoration[edit source | edit]

Prairie dropseed is used for roadside revegetation and prairie restoration projects. It is difficult to establish by direct seeding. This is best done by setting plants.

Food[edit source | edit]

Native Americans ground the seeds of the grass to make a tasty flour, and many species of birds eat the seeds.

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Common Names

prairie dropseed
northern dropseed

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Synonyms

Agrostis heterolepis Wood
Vilfa heterolepis Gray

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The currently accepted scientific name for prairie dropseed is
Sporobolus heterolepis (Gray) Gray (Poaceae) [12,19]. There are no
recognized subspecies or varieties.
  • 12. Kirchhoff, Matthew D. 1983. Black-tailed deer use in relation to forest clearcut edges in southeastern Alaska. Journal of Wildlife Management. 47(2): 497-501. [14395]
  • 19. Harrington, H. D. 1964. Manual of the plants of Colorado. 2d ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press Inc. 666 p. [6851]

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