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Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Alkali sacaton is a tough perennial two to three and a half feet tall, growing in large bunches. The culms are erect to spreading and range in height from 50 to 100 centimeters tall. The blades are elongate, flat, soon becoming involute, and usually less that four millimeters wide (Hitchcock 1951).

Distribution: Alkali sacaton ranges from South Dakota to Washington, south to Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Mexico (Steyermark 1963). For current distribution, please consult the Plant profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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Alternative names

giant sacaton, finetop saltgrass, hairgrass dropseed, zacaton alcalino

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Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

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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):

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [8]:

3 Southern Pacific Border

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
  • 8. 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

AZARCAIDIA
KSMOMTNENV
NMNDOKORSD
TXUTWAWY


BCAB



MEXICO

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  • 17. Cox, Jerry R.; Dobrenz, Albert K.; McGuire, Bartley. 1990. Evaluation of some alkali sacaton ecotypes collected in Mexico. Applied Agricultural Research. 5(3): 164-168. [34831]
  • 53. McFarland, Mark L.; Ueckert, Darrell N.; Hartmann, Steve. 1987. Revegetation of oil well reserve pits in west Texas. Journal of Range Management. 40(2): 122-127. [24481]
  • 79. Stubbendieck, J.; Hatch, Stephan L.; Hirsch, Kathie J. 1986. North American range plants. 3rd ed. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 465 p. [43453]
  • 82. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2005. PLANTS database (2005), [Online]. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/. [34262]

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Sporobolus tharpii Hitchc.:
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Sporobolus airoides (Torr.) Torr.:
Canada (North America)
India (Asia)
Mexico (Mesoamerica)
United States (North America)

Note: This information is based on publications available through Tropicos and may not represent the entire distribution. Tropicos does not categorize distributions as native or non-native.
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Global Range: Range is fairly lengthy, but linear. Sporobolus tharpii has been documented from 10 coastal Texas counties, from Matagorda south to Cameron at the Mexico border. A specimen from an inland location in Harris County is in need of critical examination to be sure of identity.

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Adaptation

Alkali sacaton grows on dry to moist sites with sand or gravelly soil. This species is often found growing on alkaline flats, prairies, and sandy plateaus. It is common along drainage in desert and semi-desert areas.

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the term: warm-season

Alkali sacaton is a native, long-lived, warm-season, densely tufted perennial bunchgrass ranging from 20 to 40 inches (50-100 cm) in height. Panicles are nearly half the length of the plant with stiff, slender, widely spreading branches. Spikelets have 1 flower and tend to diverge from the panicles, appearing scattered. Seeds are free from the lemma and fall readily from the spikelet at maturity [10]. The species is a facultative halophyte, having a broad tolerance to salinity [84,85,86].

Alkali sacaton forms vesicular-arbuscular mycorrhizae. In a greenhouse study of effects of mycorrhizal inoculation, mean dry mass of inoculated grass plants of this species was significantly greater (p less than 0.001) than dry mass of uninoculated plants after 16 weeks [92].
  • 10. 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]
  • 84. Ungar, Irwin A. 1966. Salt tolerance of plants growing in saline areas of Kansas and Oklahoma. Ecology. 47(1): 154-155. [11193]
  • 85. Ungar, Irwin A. 1974. Inland halophytes of the United States. In: Reinold, Robert J.; Queen, William H., eds. Ecology of halophytes. New York: Academic Press, Inc: 235-305. [11429]
  • 86. Ungar, Irwin A. 1976. Sporobolus airoides Torrey, an extension of its range in Lincoln, Nebraska salt marshes. Rhodora. 78: 143-144. [34695]
  • 92. Wilson, Gail W. T.; Hartnett, David C. 1998. Interspecific variation in plant responses to mycorrhizal colonization in tallgrass prairie. American Journal of Botany. 85(12): 1732-1738. [30311]

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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 with inflorescence 1-2 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 at summit, throat, or collar, Leaf sheath and blade differentiated, Leaf blades linear, Leaf blades 2-10 mm wide, Leaf blades mostly flat, Leaf blade margins folded, involute, or conduplicate, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Leaf blades more or less hairy, 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 fertile 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, L emma 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 ellipsoid, longitudinally grooved, hilum long-linear.
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Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Type Information

Type fragment for Sporobolus diffusissimus Buckley
Catalog Number: US 3198038
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: Original publication and alleged type specimen examined
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): C. Wright
Year Collected: 1849
Locality: Western Texas., Texas, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Buckley, S. B. 1862. Proc. Acad. Nat. Sci. Philadelphia. 14: 90.
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Type fragment for Agrostis airoides Torr.
Catalog Number: US 76255
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): E. James
Locality: Branches of Arkansas, near rocky mountains., Colorado, United States, North America
  • Type fragment: Torrey, J. 1824. Ann. Lyceum Nat. Hist. New York. 1: 151.
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© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

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Holotype for Sporobolus tharpii Hitchc.
Catalog Number: US 1299827
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): B. C. Tharp
Year Collected: 1927
Locality: Padre Island, Texas, United States, North America
  • Holotype: Hitchcock, A. S. 1928. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 41: 161.
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Isotype for Sporobolus tharpii Hitchc.
Catalog Number: US 1299826
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): B. C. Tharp
Year Collected: 1927
Locality: Island., Padre Island, Texas, United States, North America
  • Isotype: Hitchcock, A. S. 1928. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 41: 161.
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Ecology

Habitat

Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the terms: codominant, cover, shrub, shrubs

Because salty soils capable of supporting alkali sacaton are dispersed throughout thousands of acres in the Great Plains and Great Basin regions of the United States and Canada [72], the plants listed below represent only a fraction of
the species associated with alkali sacaton.

Alkali sacaton is common in the Southern Great Plains, where it occurs with numerous other
grasses including tobosa (Pleuraphis mutica), galleta (P. jamesii), black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda), blue grama (B. gracilis), sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), and vine-mesquite (Panicum obtusum). Commonly associated shrubs are winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), coldenia (Coldenia
spp.), Bigelow sagebrush (Artemisia bigelovii), and honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa) [72,89].

In the Central and Northern Great Plains, alkali sacaton is reported in habitats characterized by buffalo grass, western wheatgrass, blue grama, sideoats grama, hairy grama (B. hirsuta), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), red threeawn (Aristida purpurea), and saltgrass (Distichlis spicata). Associated shrub species include big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.), black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia), and Gardner's saltbush (A. gardneri) [12,48,72].

In the desert shrub and grassland communities that occupy low-lying areas of the Great Basin, alkali sacaton is associated with saltgrass, galleta, Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), and basin wildrye (Leymus cinereus). Though vegetation cover is often low in these sites, important shrub species include fourwing saltbush, winterfat, black greasewood, rabbitbrush, Utah juniper (Juniperus osteosperma), and numerous sagebrush
species including basin big sagebrush (A. t. var. tridentata), Wyoming big
sagebrush (A. t. var. wyomingensis), black sagebrush (A. nova), and budsage (A. spinescens) [10,71,72,74,81].

In the southwestern states and northern Mexico, grasses associated with alkali sacaton may include tobosa, galleta, Indian ricegrass, bottlebrush squirreltail, black grama and blue grama. Co-occurring woody species include shadscale, greasewood, winterfat, fourwing saltbush, big sagebrush, broom snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), tarbush (Flourensia cernua), and mesquite species. Associated succulents include prickly-pear and cholla (Opuntia
spp.) and yucca (Yucca spp.) [46,72,73,88].

Publications listing alkali sacaton as a community dominant or codominant are listed below.

Arizona [31]

Colorado [7]

Montana [64]

New Mexico [24,25,72]

Texas [72]
  • 46. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
  • 12. 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]
  • 88. Vincent, Dwain W. 1992. The sagebrush/grasslands of the upper Rio Puerco area, New Mexico. Rangelands. 14(5): 268-271. [19698]
  • 7. Baker, William L. 1984. A preliminary classification of the natural vegetation of Colorado. The Great Basin Naturalist. 44(4): 647-676. [380]
  • 10. 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]
  • 24. Francis, Richard E. 1986. Phyto-edaphic communities of the Upper Rio Puerco watershed, New Mexico. Res. Pap. RM-272. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 73 p. [954]
  • 25. Francis, Richard E.; Aldon, Earl F. 1983. Preliminary habitat types of a semiarid grassland. In: Moir, W. H.; Hendzel, Leonard, tech. coords. Proceedings of the workshop on Southwestern habitat types; 1983 April 6-8; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southwestern Region: 62-66. [956]
  • 31. Harris, Lisa K.; Ruther, Sherry. 2000. Ecological characteristics of riparian washes in southeastern Arizona, USA. Natural Areas Journal. 20(3): 221-226. [35751]
  • 48. Lindauer, Ivo E. 1983. A comparison of the plant communities of the South Platte and Arkansas River drainages in eastern Colorado. The Southwestern Naturalist. 28(3): 249-259. [5886]
  • 64. 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]
  • 71. Shantz, H. L.; Piemeisel, R. L. 1940. Types of vegetation in Escalante Valley, Utah, as indicators of soil conditions. Tech. Bull. 713. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 46 p. [2117]
  • 72. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]
  • 73. Shreve, Forrest. 1942. Grassland and related vegetation in northern Mexico. Madrono. 6: 190-198. [5058]
  • 74. Shreve, Forrest. 1942. The desert vegetation of North America. Botanical Review. 8(4): 195-246. [5051]
  • 81. Tueller, Paul T. 1989. Vegetation and land use in Nevada. Rangelands. 11(5): 204-210. [9295]
  • 89. Weigel, Jeffrey R.; McPherson, Guy R.; Britton, Carlton M. 1989. Effects of short-duration grazing on winter annuals in the Texas Rolling Plains. Journal of Range Management. 42(5): 372-375. [9325]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

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

More info for the terms: cover, shrub, vine

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [72]:

401 Basin big sagebrush

403 Wyoming big sagebrush

405 Black sagebrush

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

414 Salt desert shrub

501 Saltbush-greasewood

502 Grama-galleta

504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland

505 Grama-tobosa shrub

508 Creosotebush-tarbush

611 Blue grama-buffalo grass

615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama

701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass

702 Black grama-alkali sacaton

705 Blue grama-galleta

706 Blue grama-sideoats grama

712 Galleta-alkali sacaton

725 Vine mesquite-alkali sacaton

727 Mesquite-buffalo grass

728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia
  • 72. 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 [77]:

239 Pinyon-juniper

242 Mesquite
  • 77. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. FEIS postfire regeneration workshop--April 12: Seral origin of species comprising secondary plant succession in Northern Rocky Mountain forests. 10 p. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. [20090]

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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 [46] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:


K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K038 Great Basin sagebrush

K039 Blackbrush

K040 Saltbush-greasewood

K041 Creosote bush

K044 Creosote bush-tarbush

K046 Desert: vegetation largely lacking

K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe

K059 Trans-Pecos shrub savanna

KO61 Mesquite-acacia savanna

K065 Grama-buffalo grass

K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass

K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass
  • 46. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]

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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 [28]:

FRES29 Sagebrush

FRES30 Desert shrub

FRES32 Texas savanna

FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper

FRES38 Plains grasslands

FRES39 Prairie

FRES40 Desert grasslands
  • 28. 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 characteristics

Alkali sacaton grows in saline and nonsaline soils, sometimes in dense, pure stands. It has a broad pH and salinity tolerance, and is common in moist alkaline flats [10,12,14,20,23,29,65,72,87]. It adapted to soils containing high sodium chloride concentrations and soils containing mixtures of other salts including bicarbonate and sulfate compounds [84,85,86]. Ungar [84,85] (and references therein) reported alkali sacaton on sites with soil salinity ranging from 0.003% to 3%, with optimum levels between 0.3% and 0.5%. This species grows in soil textures ranging from sand to clay, usually with low organic matter [20,82,85]. After establishment, it is tolerant of both drought [85] and inundation by water [75].

Elevations ranges for alkali sacaton are as follows:

Arizona 2,500 to 6,500 ft (760-1,980 m) [36]
Colorado 4,000 to 8,000 ft (1,220-2,440 m) [30]
New Mexico 3,100 to 7,500 ft (950-2,290 m) [59,72]
Utah 2,625 to 7,710 ft (800-2,350 m) [91]
  • 12. 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]
  • 14. Brotherson, Jack D. 1987. Plant community zonation in response to soil gradients in a saline meadow near Utah Lake, Utah County, Utah. The Great Basin Naturalist. 47(2): 322-333. [10495]
  • 30. Harrington, H. D. 1964. Manual of the plants of Colorado. 2d ed. Chicago: The Swallow Press, Inc. 666 p. [6851]
  • 29. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 87. Vallentine, John F. 1961. Important Utah range grasses. Extension Circular 281. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 48 p. [2937]
  • 91. 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]
  • 10. 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]
  • 20. De Alba-Avila, Abraham; Cox, Jerry R. 1988. Planting depth and soil texture effects on emergence and production of three alkali sacaton accessions. Journal of Range Management. 41(3): 216-219. [3058]
  • 23. Fisher, Jack C., Jr. 1985. Use of native vegetation for dust control at Owens Dry Lake. In: Rieger, John P.; Steele, Bobbie A., eds. Proceedings of the native plant revegetation symposium; 1984 November 15; San Diego, CA. San Diego, CA: California Native Plant Society: 36-41. [3342]
  • 36. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Arizona range grasses: Description--forage value--management. Bulletin 298. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [5004]
  • 59. Quinones, Ferdinand A. 1974. Performance of blue grama, sideoats grama, and alkali sacaton accessions under irrigation near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Research Report 289. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 8 p. [30526]
  • 65. Roundy, Bruce A.; Cluff, Greg J.; Young, James A.; Evans, R. A. 1983. Treatment of inland saltgrass and greasewood sites to improve forage production. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings of symposia; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 54-66. [2036]
  • 72. Shiflet, Thomas N., ed. 1994. Rangeland cover types of the United States. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management. 152 p. [23362]
  • 75. Steuter, Allen A; Plumb, Glenn. 1988. Wormwood sage controlled by spring fires (South Dakota). Restoration & Management Notes. 6(1): 35. [69]
  • 84. Ungar, Irwin A. 1966. Salt tolerance of plants growing in saline areas of Kansas and Oklahoma. Ecology. 47(1): 154-155. [11193]
  • 85. Ungar, Irwin A. 1974. Inland halophytes of the United States. In: Reinold, Robert J.; Queen, William H., eds. Ecology of halophytes. New York: Academic Press, Inc: 235-305. [11429]
  • 86. Ungar, Irwin A. 1976. Sporobolus airoides Torrey, an extension of its range in Lincoln, Nebraska salt marshes. Rhodora. 78: 143-144. [34695]
  • 82. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2005. PLANTS database (2005), [Online]. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/. [34262]

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Comments: Sporobolus tharpii occurs on barrier islands, shores of lagoons and bays protected by the barrier islands, and on shores of a few near-coastal ponds. Plants occur at the bases of dunes, in interdune swales and sandflats, and on upper beaches. The substrate is of Holocene age.

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Dispersal

Establishment

Propagation by Seed: Alkali sacaton seeds should be sown in the spring in a greenhouse. Cover the seeds with a light layer of the growing media. Germination for this species should take place within two weeks. When seedlings are large enough to handle, plant them directly into their permanent positions in the summer.

Large divisions can be planted directly into their permanent positions. However, smaller divisions should be placed in individual pots in a cold frame, planting them when they are well established in the summer.

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: density, prescribed fire, shrubs

In a 1982 summary of fire in the southern desert grasslands and shrublands, Wright and Bailey [94] conclude that if rangelands are in good condition, fire can be used as an effective management tool to reduce some shrubs and small trees during wet weather cycles. Fire probably has the greatest value for managing tobosa, big sacaton, alkali sacaton, and mixed grama ranges [13,94]. According to Wright and Bailey [94], sacaton communities are similar in density, coarseness, and structure to tobosagrass; Payson and others [58] indicate that prescribed fire causes low mortality, improves palatability, and increases biomass of tobosagrass.
  • 13. Britton, Carlton M.; Wright, Henry A. 1983. Brush management with fire. In: McDaniel, Kirk C., ed. Proceedings: brush management symposium; 1983 February 16; Albuquerque, NM. Denver, CO: Society for Range Management: 61-68. [521]
  • 94. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]
  • 58. Paysen, Timothy E.; Ansley, R. James; Brown, James K.; [and others]. 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-volume 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 121-159. [36978]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: basal area, forbs

The recovery time of alkali sacaton following fire has been reported as 2 to 4 years. In an Arizona study alkali sacaton basal area recovered in 2 postfire years, although only 54% of plant height was recovered in that time. The effect of fires in the 1st postfire growing season was to decrease height and basal area of alkali sacaton while stimulating growth of other grasses and forbs. Summer fires had a more pronounced effect on alkali sacaton than winter fires [11,93,94].
  • 11. Bock, Carl E.; Bock, Jane H. 1978. Response of birds, small mammals, and vegetation to burning sacaton grasslands in southeastern Arizona. Journal of Range Management. 31(4): 296-300. [3075]
  • 93. Wright, Henry A. 1980. The role and use of fire in the semidesert grass-shrub type. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-85. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 24 p. [2616]
  • 94. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Alkali sacaton is classified as tolerant of, but not resistant to, fire [82,93,94]. Top-killing by fire is probably frequent, and the plants can be killed by severe fire [78].
  • 78. Stocklin, Jurg; Favre, Pascal. 1994. Effects of plant size and morphological constraints on variation in reproductive components in two related species of Epilobium. Journal of Ecology. 82: 73-746. [24456]
  • 93. Wright, Henry A. 1980. The role and use of fire in the semidesert grass-shrub type. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-85. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 24 p. [2616]
  • 94. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]
  • 82. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2005. PLANTS database (2005), [Online]. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/. [34262]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: ground residual colonizer

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [76]:
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
  • 76. Stevens, Richard. 1983. Species adapted for seeding mountain brush, big, black, and low sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper communities. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 78-82. [2240]

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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: density, fire frequency, fire occurrence, frequency, shrub, stand-replacing fire

Records of fire occurrence in sacaton grasslands are rare. Wright and Bailey [93] associated the fire ecology of alkali sacaton with that of tobosa because the species occur together in southern desert floodplains and are similar in density, coarseness, and structure [93]. Humphrey [36] characterized the vegetation in tobosa floodplains as flammable and sometimes dense enough to carry a fire, but suggests that because of the relatively limited area and sparse surrounding vegetation, floodplain tobosa stands probably burned less frequently than adjoining grasslands and shrublands. Factors contributing to increased fire frequency in sacaton grasslands include a lower water table, less frequent flooding, and the expansion of mesquite and acacia [93].

Although not specific to alkali sacaton, Payson and others [56] provide a review of fire in shrublands and grasslands where this species is present. Among these are such widespread vegetation types [27,45] as Great Basin sagebrush, blackbrush, saltbush-greasewood, creosotebush, mesquite-acacia savanna, grama-tobosa shrubsteppe, pinyon-juniper, and Trans-Pecos and Texas savanna. These vegetation types are characterized by mixed or stand-replacing FIRE REGIMES, with varying fire return intervals. 

Fire return intervals for some communities where alkali sacaton occurs are listed below. Please refer to FEIS summaries of the dominant species in these vegetation types for information about their fire ecology.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [56]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [66]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40*) [87,94]
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
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum
creosotebush Larrea tridentata
Ceniza shrub Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. 56]
*mean
  • 87. Vallentine, John F. 1961. Important Utah range grasses. Extension Circular 281. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 48 p. [2937]
  • 27. Fuller, Robert D.; Nelson, Emily D. P.; Richardson, Curtis J. 1982. Reclamation of red mud (bauxite residues) using alkaline-tolerant grasses with organic amendments. Journal of Environmental Quality. 11(3): 533-539. [11424]
  • 36. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Arizona range grasses: Description--forage value--management. Bulletin 298. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 104 p. [5004]
  • 45. Koostra, James B.; Kinucan, Robert J.; Davis, Delmer I. 1992. A comparison of microbial cellulase and live cell rumen inoculum for estimating in vitro digestibility of range grasses. Texas Journal of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 5: 67-71. [34980]
  • 56. Nelson, A. B.; Herbel, H. M.; Jackson, H. M. 1970. Chemical composition of forage species grazed by cattle on an arid New Mexico range. Bulletin 561. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 33 p. [4034]
  • 66. Salo, L. F.; Artiola, J. F.; Goodrich-Mahoney, J. W. 1996. Plant species for revegetation of a saline flue gas desulfurization sludge pond. Journal of Environmental Quality. 25(4): 802-808. [34693]
  • 93. Wright, Henry A. 1980. The role and use of fire in the semidesert grass-shrub type. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-85. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 24 p. [2616]
  • 94. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the terms: marsh, series, succession

Alkali sacaton is intolerant of shade [82]. It is commonly found as a primary or secondary invader on saline soils. It invades saline flats directly or follows a stage where "succulents" are dominant. In successional series on marsh borders, alkali sacaton represents the vegetation stage just prior to prairie, possibly playing a part in a cycle involving periods of decreased and increased salinity. With decreased salinity its dense root system produces hummocks. As succession proceeds, prairie species invade the hummocks [85]. 

A study of succession following lowered water tables caused by groundwater pumping in the Owens Valley of California found alkali meadow (dominated by alkali sacaton and saltgrass) was followed by either Nevada saltbush-meadow or rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)-meadow [51].
  • 51. Manning, Sara J. 1999. The effects of water table decline on groundwater-dependent Great Basin plant communities in the Owens Valley, California. In: McArthur, E. Durant; Ostler, W. Kent; Wambolt, Carl L., compilers. Proceedings: shrubland ecotones; 1998 August 12-14; Ephraim, UT. Proceedings RMRS-P-11. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 231-237. [36092]
  • 85. Ungar, Irwin A. 1974. Inland halophytes of the United States. In: Reinold, Robert J.; Queen, William H., eds. Ecology of halophytes. New York: Academic Press, Inc: 235-305. [11429]
  • 82. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2005. PLANTS database (2005), [Online]. Available: http://plants.usda.gov/. [34262]

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Regeneration Processes

Alkali sacaton reproduces from seeds and tillers. Seed production is abundant, and seeds remain viable for many years [10]. Seedcoats need not be scarified, but seeds must undergo an afterripening period of several months for good germination. Water movement in floodplains disperses seeds, some of which are deposited in saturated sediments where they later germinate [3].

The effects of moisture stress on germination were studied in the Rio Puerco Watershed near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The study showed that alkali sacaton is more severely affected by moisture stress than galleta and blue grama. This supports observations that alkali sacaton is restricted to frequently flooded sites, while galleta and blue grama can establish on drier sites [44]. Germination percentages decrease with increasing salt increments. Soils rich in magnesium and low in calcium inhibit germination [38,85].

Alkali sacaton seed germinates best between temperatures of 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit (27 and 32 oC) [2,3,43]. Minimum germination temperature was measured at 54 degrees Fahrenheit (12 oC)[40].
  • 2. Aldon, Earl F. 1975. Establishing alkali sacaton on harsh sites in the Southwest. Journal of Range Management. 28(2): 129-132. [2872]
  • 3. Aldon, Earl F. 1981. Long-term plant survival and density data from reclaimed Southwestern coal mine spoils. The Great Basin Naturalist. 41(3): 271-273. [298]
  • 10. 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]
  • 38. Hyder, S. Z.; Yasmin, Shamsa. 1972. Salt tolerance and cation interaction in alkali sacaton at germination. Journal of Range Management. 25(5): 390-392. [34579]
  • 40. 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]
  • 43. Knipe, O. D. 1967. Influence of temperature on the germination of some range grasses. Journal of Range Management. 20: 298-299. [114]
  • 44. 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]
  • 85. Ungar, Irwin A. 1974. Inland halophytes of the United States. In: Reinold, Robert J.; Queen, William H., eds. Ecology of halophytes. New York: Academic Press, Inc: 235-305. [11429]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: hemicryptophyte

RAUNKIAER [60] LIFE FORM:
Hemicryptophyte
  • 60. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]

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Life Form

More info for the term: graminoid

Graminoid

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: warm-season

Alkali sacaton is a warm-season grass. It blooms from July to August in the Northwest [35], from June to October in the Great Plains [29], and from April to May in the Southwest [55].  Seeds are produced from late summer to October. They usually germinate in July after a 9-month afterripening period [3]. 
  • 29. Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Great Plains. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 1392 p. [1603]
  • 3. Aldon, Earl F. 1981. Long-term plant survival and density data from reclaimed Southwestern coal mine spoils. The Great Basin Naturalist. 41(3): 271-273. [298]
  • 35. Hitchcock, C. Leo; Cronquist, Arthur; Ownbey, Marion. 1969. Vascular plants of the Pacific Northwest. Part 1: Vascular cryptogams, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press. 914 p. [1169]
  • 55. Munz, Philip A. 1974. A flora of southern California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1086 p. [4924]

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Sporobolus airoides

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N2 - Imperiled

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

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National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N3 - Vulnerable

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G3 - Vulnerable

Reasons: Limited range. No abundance data. Threats working on long-term. Few current populations, but potential exists for many. Large portion of range falls within public protected lands.

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Status

Please consult the Plants Web site and your State Department of Natural Resources for this plant’s current status, such as, state noxious status and wetland indicator values.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%

Comments: Declining due to coastal development.

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Threats

Comments: No overt threats have been identified, but general development of seashores for housing, grazing, industry, and agriculture continue to reduce habitat, except on refuges.

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Management

Management considerations

More info for the terms: competition, reclamation

Alkali sacaton is notable for its tolerance to alkaline soil, drought, flooding, moderate grazing, and mining disturbance. It is an important forage species in many areas, particularly the
Southwest. Stands of this grass stabilize eroding soil [2,4,10,17,18,66]. Numerous ecotypes, accessions, and cultivars of alkali sacaton have been evaluated [17,20,22,32,59]. Discussion about the reclamation potential of this species can be found in
"Value for Rehabilitation of Disturbed Sites" above.

Historical research in central California and the arid Southwest indicates that alkali sacaton grasslands were once much more abundant than they are today. Pure stands of alkali
sacaton grew on playas, floodplains, hills, and terraces. Today the species is found growing only on playas and low alluvial floodplains where water and excessive concentrations of
soluble salts, exchangeable sodium, or both, accumulate. The decline is attributed to overgrazing, competition from other salt-adapted plant species, and human population pressure [6,17,18,20].
  • 2. Aldon, Earl F. 1975. Establishing alkali sacaton on harsh sites in the Southwest. Journal of Range Management. 28(2): 129-132. [2872]
  • 10. 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]
  • 17. Cox, Jerry R.; Dobrenz, Albert K.; McGuire, Bartley. 1990. Evaluation of some alkali sacaton ecotypes collected in Mexico. Applied Agricultural Research. 5(3): 164-168. [34831]
  • 20. De Alba-Avila, Abraham; Cox, Jerry R. 1988. Planting depth and soil texture effects on emergence and production of three alkali sacaton accessions. Journal of Range Management. 41(3): 216-219. [3058]
  • 59. Quinones, Ferdinand A. 1974. Performance of blue grama, sideoats grama, and alkali sacaton accessions under irrigation near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Research Report 289. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 8 p. [30526]
  • 66. Salo, L. F.; Artiola, J. F.; Goodrich-Mahoney, J. W. 1996. Plant species for revegetation of a saline flue gas desulfurization sludge pond. Journal of Environmental Quality. 25(4): 802-808. [34693]
  • 4. Aldon, Earl F.; Garcia, George. 1973. Seventeen-year sediment production from a semiarid watershed in the Southwest. Res. Note RM-248. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 4 p. [8187]
  • 6. Anderson, M. Kat. 1996. The ethnobotany of deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens (Poaceae): its uses and fire management by California Indian tribes. Economic Botany. 50(4): 409-422. [27558]
  • 18. Cox, Jerry R.; Morton, Howard L.; LaBaume, Jimmy T.; Renard, Kenneth G. 1983. Reviving Arizona's rangelands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 38: 342-345. [24914]
  • 22. Everett, H. Wayne; Oaks, Wendall R. 1985. Development of conservation plant varieties. In: Vegetative rehabilitation & equipment workshop: 39th annual report; 1985 February 10-11; Salt Lake City, UT. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Equipment Development Center; 1985: 3-7. [887]
  • 32. Hassell, Wendall G. 1982. New plant materials for reclamation. In: Aldon, Earl F.; Oaks, Wendall R., eds. Reclamation of mined lands in the Southwest: a symposium: Proceedings; 1982 October 20-22; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: Soil Conservation Society of America, New Mexico Chapter: 108-112. [1104]

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Cultivars, improved and selected materials (and area of origin)

Commonly available through commercial seed vendors. Contact your local Natural Resources Conservation Service (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.”

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Once Sporobolus airoides plants are well established little maintenance is required. It is best that the stands of this species is grazed in the spring and summer when growth is active.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

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: cover, reclamation, shrub

Alkali sacaton is 1 of the most commonly used species for seeding and stabilizing disturbed lands in the semiarid Southwest [3,5,26,57,61]. Due to its salt tolerance, it was recommended for native grass seeding on subirrigated saline sites in mixtures with western wheatgrass and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) [79]. It is planted in riparian zones in major plant communities in the Intermountain region [54]. It was found superior to western wheatgrass for seeding in the drier climates of the southern and northern desert shrub types [3,47,52]. Alkali sacaton has been used in reclamation seedings on sagebrush-grasslands, pinyon-juniper communities, and shadscale saltbrush, blackbrush, and saltgrass ranges [47,76].

Alkali sacaton has shown promise as a remediation species on oil well reserve pits [53] and saline waste from coal-fired electrical generating stations [66]. Retana and others [62] determined that alkali sacaton has the potential to remove selenium from contaminated soil by accumulating it in shoot biomass. In a greenhouse study, Fuller and others [27] found that soil amendment with sewage sludge improved growth of alkali sacaton in bauxite residues.

Alkali sacaton can provide abundant leafy ground cover. Establishment of seedlings is difficult without frequent irrigation. Once established, plants need little maintenance. They tolerate drought and perform well in the 12 to 18 inch (200-460 mm) mean annual precipitation zone or, with occasional irrigation, in areas of less precipitation [22,32,49,59,80,90]. Cox and others [17] asserted that a "waving sea" of alkali sacaton could not be maintained where mean annual precipitation is only 6 to 16 inches (150-400 mm).

Aldon [2] developed the following guidelines for establishing alkali sacaton from seed on harsh sites:
  • Plant when soil moisture is at least 14% or higher

  • Plant when probabilities for weekly precipitation are greatest and soil temperatures will be near 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 oC)

  • Use large seeds at least 1 year old

  • Saturate the planting site just prior to planting

  • Cover seed with about 1/2 inch (13 mm) of mulch to keep conditions moist and dark

  • If rainwater does not deposit at least 6 mm of rain within the first 5 days, rewater to bring the soil to saturation

A seed-storage study in Utah reported 99% germination in alkali sacaton seeds that were stored in an open, unheated, uncooled warehouse for 7 years.

  • 5. Allison, Chris. 1988. Seeding New Mexico rangeland. Circular 525. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, College of Agriculture and Home Economics, Cooperative Extension Service. 15 p. [11830]
  • 2. Aldon, Earl F. 1975. Establishing alkali sacaton on harsh sites in the Southwest. Journal of Range Management. 28(2): 129-132. [2872]
  • 3. Aldon, Earl F. 1981. Long-term plant survival and density data from reclaimed Southwestern coal mine spoils. The Great Basin Naturalist. 41(3): 271-273. [298]
  • 17. Cox, Jerry R.; Dobrenz, Albert K.; McGuire, Bartley. 1990. Evaluation of some alkali sacaton ecotypes collected in Mexico. Applied Agricultural Research. 5(3): 164-168. [34831]
  • 27. Fuller, Robert D.; Nelson, Emily D. P.; Richardson, Curtis J. 1982. Reclamation of red mud (bauxite residues) using alkaline-tolerant grasses with organic amendments. Journal of Environmental Quality. 11(3): 533-539. [11424]
  • 53. McFarland, Mark L.; Ueckert, Darrell N.; Hartmann, Steve. 1987. Revegetation of oil well reserve pits in west Texas. Journal of Range Management. 40(2): 122-127. [24481]
  • 59. Quinones, Ferdinand A. 1974. Performance of blue grama, sideoats grama, and alkali sacaton accessions under irrigation near Las Cruces, New Mexico. Research Report 289. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 8 p. [30526]
  • 66. Salo, L. F.; Artiola, J. F.; Goodrich-Mahoney, J. W. 1996. Plant species for revegetation of a saline flue gas desulfurization sludge pond. Journal of Environmental Quality. 25(4): 802-808. [34693]
  • 76. Stevens, Richard. 1983. Species adapted for seeding mountain brush, big, black, and low sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper communities. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 78-82. [2240]
  • 79. Stubbendieck, J.; Hatch, Stephan L.; Hirsch, Kathie J. 1986. North American range plants. 3rd ed. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press. 465 p. [43453]
  • 22. Everett, H. Wayne; Oaks, Wendall R. 1985. Development of conservation plant varieties. In: Vegetative rehabilitation & equipment workshop: 39th annual report; 1985 February 10-11; Salt Lake City, UT. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Equipment Development Center; 1985: 3-7. [887]
  • 26. Francis, Richard E.; Fresquez, P. R.; Gonzales, G. J. 1991. Vegetation establishment on reclaimed coal mine spoils in northwestern New Mexico. Res. Note RM-511. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 4 p. [17113]
  • 32. Hassell, Wendall G. 1982. New plant materials for reclamation. In: Aldon, Earl F.; Oaks, Wendall R., eds. Reclamation of mined lands in the Southwest: a symposium: Proceedings; 1982 October 20-22; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: Soil Conservation Society of America, New Mexico Chapter: 108-112. [1104]
  • 47. Kupferschmid, Andrea D.; Bugmann, Harald. 2005. Erratum to "effect of microsites, logs, and ungulate browsing on Picea abies regeneration in a mountain forest". Forest Ecology and Management. 205: 251-265. [171]
  • 49. Lugg, D. G.; Smith, F., Jr.; Gomez, J. F. 1987. Performance of warm-season perennial grasses in New Mexico. Bulletin 729. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 30 p. [6578]
  • 52. McArthur, E. Durant; Plummer, A. Perry; Davis, James N. 1978. Rehabilitation of game range in the salt desert. In: Johnson, Kendall L., ed. Wyoming shrublands: Proceedings of the 7th Wyoming shrub ecology workshop; 1978 May 31-June 1; Rock Springs, WY. Laramie, WY: University of Wyoming, Range Management Division, Wyoming Shrub Ecology Workshop: 23-50. [1575]
  • 54. Monsen, Stephen B. 1983. Plants for revegetation of riparian sites within the Intermountain region. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings of symposia; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 83-89. [9652]
  • 57. Oaks, Wendall R. 1982. Reclamation and seeding of plant materials for reclamation. In: Aldon, Earl F.; Oaks, Wendall R., eds. Reclamation of mined lands in the Southwest: a symposium; 1982 October 20-22; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: Soil Conservation Society of America--New Mexico Chapter: 145-150. [1791]
  • 61. Reith, Charles C. 1988. Mine reclamation restores overgrazed habitat in the San Juan Basin (New Mexico). Restoration & Management Notes. 6(1): 52. [5472]
  • 62. Retana, J.; Parker, D. R.; Amrhein, C.; Page, A. L. 1993. Growth and trace element concentrations of five plant species grown in a highly saline soil. Journal of Environmental Quality. 22(4): 805-811. [34692]
  • 80. Thornburg, Ashley A. 1982. Plant materials for use on surface-mined lands. SCS-TP-157. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 88 p. [3769]
  • 90. Weiler, Gregory J. 1982. The use of saline water to establish native species on topsoiled mine spoil. In: Aldon, Earl F.; Oaks, Wendall R., eds. Reclamation of mined lands in the Southwest: a symposium; 1982 October 20-22; Albuquerque, NM. Albuquerque, NM: Soil Conservation Society of America--New Mexico Chapter: 174-177. [2476]

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Cover Value

More info for the term: cover

The degree to which alkali sacaton provides cover for wildlife species has been rated as follows [21]:

UT WY Pronghorn Poor Fair Elk Poor Poor Mule deer Poor Poor White-tailed deer Poor ---- Small mammals Good Good Small nongame birds Fair Good Upland game birds Fair Fair Waterfowl Fair Poor
  • 21. 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]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the term: shrub

Alkali sacaton is a valuable forage species in arid and semiarid regions. Plants are tolerant to moderate grazing and can produce abundant herbage utilized by livestock and wildlife [10,18,21,56,61,87].

The western saltdesert shrub and grassland communities where alkali sacaton is common support an abundance of mule deer, pronghorn, carnivores, small mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles [10,63].
  • 21. 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]
  • 87. Vallentine, John F. 1961. Important Utah range grasses. Extension Circular 281. Logan, UT: Utah State University. 48 p. [2937]
  • 10. 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]
  • 56. Nelson, A. B.; Herbel, H. M.; Jackson, H. M. 1970. Chemical composition of forage species grazed by cattle on an arid New Mexico range. Bulletin 561. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 33 p. [4034]
  • 18. Cox, Jerry R.; Morton, Howard L.; LaBaume, Jimmy T.; Renard, Kenneth G. 1983. Reviving Arizona's rangelands. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 38: 342-345. [24914]
  • 61. Reith, Charles C. 1988. Mine reclamation restores overgrazed habitat in the San Juan Basin (New Mexico). Restoration & Management Notes. 6(1): 52. [5472]
  • 63. Rice, Jane Anderson; Smith, Norman. 1988. Hunting area preferences of red-tailed hawks and American kestrels in range lands. In: Glinski, Richard L.; Pendleton, Beth Giron; Moss, Mary Beth; [and others], eds. Proceedings of the southwest raptor management symposium and workshop; 1986 May 21-24; Tucson, AZ. NWF Science and Technology Series No. 11. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation: 265-273. [22698]

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Other uses and values

Species in the genus Sporobolus, probably including alkali sacaton, were used by Native Americans in California for basketry and weaving [6].
  • 6. Anderson, M. Kat. 1996. The ethnobotany of deergrass, Muhlenbergia rigens (Poaceae): its uses and fire management by California Indian tribes. Economic Botany. 50(4): 409-422. [27558]

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Nutritional Value

In a New Mexico study, protein content in alkali sacaton ranged from 4.2% in January to 8.7% in October. Calcium content ranged from 0.26% to 0.56%. Phosphorus content ranged from 0.04% to
0.17% [56]. Koostra and others [45] detected levels of in-vitro digestible dry matter in alkali sacaton ranging from 25% to 37%.
  • 45. Koostra, James B.; Kinucan, Robert J.; Davis, Delmer I. 1992. A comparison of microbial cellulase and live cell rumen inoculum for estimating in vitro digestibility of range grasses. Texas Journal of Agriculture and Natural Resources. 5: 67-71. [34980]
  • 56. Nelson, A. B.; Herbel, H. M.; Jackson, H. M. 1970. Chemical composition of forage species grazed by cattle on an arid New Mexico range. Bulletin 561. Las Cruces, NM: New Mexico State University, Agricultural Experiment Station. 33 p. [4034]

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Palatability

The palatability of alkali sacaton has been rated as follows [21]:


CO MT UT WY
Cattle Good Good Good Good
Domestic sheep Good Good Fair Good
Horses Good Good Fair Good
Pronghorn ---- Poor Fair Poor
Elk ---- Poor Fair Fair
Mule deer ---- Poor Fair Poor
White-tailed deer ---- ---- Poor ----
Small mammals ---- ---- Good Fair
Small nongame birds ---- ---- Fair Fair
Upland game birds ---- ---- Fair Fair
Waterfowl ---- ---- Fair Poor
  • 21. 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]

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Uses

Ethnobotanic: The Hopi Indians use the seeds in times of famine (Whiting 1939). They were ground into flour, eaten dry or made into a mush.

Wildlife: Alkali sacaton’s abundant herbage is eaten by cattle, sheep, and horses (Hitchock 1951). This species is used as a good forage or grazing grass in lowland and in alkali regions (Gates 1937).

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Wikipedia

Sporobolus airoides

Sporobolus airoides is a species of grass known by the common name alkali sacaton. It is native to western North America, including the Western United States west of the Mississippi River, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, and northern and central Mexico. It grows in many types of habitat, often in alkali soils, such as in California desert regions.

Contents

Description

Sporobolus airoides is a perennial bunchgrass forming a clump of stems reaching up to two meters tall. The stem bases are thick and tough, almost woody in texture. The fibrous green or gray-green leaves are up to 50 or 60 centimeters in length. The inflorescence is long and generally wide open and spreading, bearing yellow spikelets with purplish bases. The grass produces abundant seeds, which are often dispersed in flowing water and germinate when embedded in sediment.[1]

Halophyte - salinity

Sporobolus airoides is a facultative halophyte, able to grow in soils with high salt concentrations.[1]

This grass germinates best in warm, sunny, wet conditions, and it can easily move into saline soils such as those in alkali flats when the substrate is wet.[1]

Cultivation

It is a valuable grass for habitat restoration and revegetation projects in disturbed habitat in the Southwest United States, especially in riparian zones in California and the Intermountain West.[1]

Mojave Desert

It is planted with Muhlenbergia asperifolia - Scratchgrass for Mojave River and other Riparian zone restoration in the Mojave Desert.[2] It produces dense groundcover once established.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e US Forest Service Fire Ecology
  2. ^ Hershdorfer, M. and R. Garner. Sporobolus airoides and Muhlenbergia asperifolia: Population developments for southern Nevada. USDA. March 2006.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

The accepted scientific name of alkali sacaton is Sporobolus airoides
(Torr.) Torr. (Poaceae) [34,41,91]. Alkali sacaton probably hybridizes and
intergrades with big sacaton (S. wrightii). Some
authorities include S. wrightii as a variety of alkali sacaton: S.
airoides var. wrightii (Munro ex Scribn.) Gould [19,91].
  • 34. Hickman, James C., ed. 1993. The Jepson manual: Higher plants of California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1400 p. [21992]
  • 91. 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]
  • 41. Kartesz, John T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume I--checklist. 2nd ed. Portland, OR: Timber Press. 622 p. [23877]
  • 19. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; [and others]. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6. The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]

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Common Names

alkali sacaton

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Comments: Sporobolus tharpii is closely related to S. airoides and S. wrightii, both species of central and west Texas. The different range, habitats, and morphology are sufficient to maintain S. tharpii as a distinct species (Sorrie, B., 1999 Element Ranking Form).

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