Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

General: Grass Family (Poaceae). Deergrass is a perennial bunchgrass obtaining heights of 5 feet when in bloom. It is part of the largest genus of warm season grasses in North America. The bunchgrass is found in dense, large clumps, but can occur as a continuous cover, in areas that are subjected to light, frequent ground fires. The culms are slender, narrow spike-like panicles, 9 to 12 dm. in length and less than 1.2 cm. wide. The numerous, small spikelets each have one awnless floret, with a 3-nerved lemma. The ligules are firm and truncate, 2-3 mm long. The leaves are 1.5 to 6 mm wide. The seeds are small, requiring about 2.5 million to make one pound. The dense, basal foliage is tufted and these large tufts, up to six feet across, are a distinguishing feature of the grass, along with the whip-like flower stalks.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site. It is found in sandy or gravely well-drained soils in scattered colonies in dry or damp places below 2150 m elevation from Shasta County in northern California south, extending into New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Perennials, Terrestrial, not aquatic, Stems trailing, spreading or prostrate, Stems nodes swollen or brittle, Stems erect or ascending, Stems geniculate, decumbent, or lax, sometimes rooting at nodes, Stems caespitose, tufted, or clustered, Stems terete, round in cross section, or polygonal, Stem internodes hollow, Stems with inflorescence less than 1 m tall, Stems, culms, or scapes exceeding basal leaves, Leaves mostly cauline, Leaves conspicuously 2-ranked, distichous, Leaves sheathing at base, Leaf sheath mostly open, or loose, Leaf sheath smooth, glabrous, 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 blades mostly flat, Leaf blade margins folded, involute, or conduplicate, Leaf blades mostly glabrous, Ligule present, Ligule an unfringed eciliate membrane, Inflorescence terminal, Inflorescence a contracted panicle, narrowly paniculate, branches appressed or ascending, Inflorescence a dense slender spike-like panicle or raceme, branches contracted, Inflorescence solitary, with 1 spike, fascicle, glomerule, head, or cluster per stem or culm, Inflorescence spike linear or cylindric, several times longer than wide, Inflorescence branches more than 10 t o 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, Spikelets disarticulating beneath or between the florets, Rachilla or pedicel glabrous, Glumes present, empty bracts, Glumes 2 clearly present, Glumes equal or subequal, Glumes shorter than adjacent lemma, Glumes 1 nerved, Lemmas thin, chartaceous, hyaline, cartilaginous, or membranous, Lemma similar in texture to glumes, Lemma 3 nerved, Lemma glabrous, Lemma apex truncate, rounded, or obtuse, Lemma apex acute or acuminate, Lemma awnless, Lemma mucronate, very shortly beaked or awned, less than 1-2 mm, Lemma margins thin, lying flat, Lemma straight, Callus or base of lemma evidently hairy, Callus hairs shorter than lemma, 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.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Dr. David Bogler

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Type Information

Isotype for Muhlenbergia marshii I.M. Johnst.
Catalog Number: US 1647094
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): E. G. Marsh
Year Collected: 1936
Locality: Del Carmen Mts., Coahuila, Mexico, North America
  • Isotype: Johnston, I. M. 1943. J. Arnold Arbor. 24: 392.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Isotype for Muhlenbergia mundula I.M. Johnst.
Catalog Number: US 999023
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. G. Pringle
Year Collected: 1885
Locality: Streams near Chihuahua., Chihuahua, Mexico, North America
  • Isotype: Johnston, I. M. 1943. J. Arnold Arbor. 24: 392.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Isotype for Epicampes leptoura Piper
Catalog Number: US 998992
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. H. T. Townsend & C. Barber
Year Collected: 1899
Locality: Sierra Madres near Colonia Garcia., Chihuahua, Mexico, North America
Elevation (m): 2134 to 2134
  • Isotype: Piper, C. V. 1905. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 18: 143.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Holotype for Epicampes leptoura Piper
Catalog Number: US 347144
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. H. T. Townsend & C. Barber
Year Collected: 1899
Locality: In Sierra Madres, near Colonial Garcia, Chihuahua, Mexico, North America
Elevation (m): 2134 to 2134
  • Holotype: Piper, C. V. 1905. Proc. Biol. Soc. Wash. 18: 143.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany

Source: National Museum of Natural History Collections

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

California Central Valley Grasslands Habitat

This taxon is found in the California Central Valley grasslands, which extend approximately 430 miles in central California, paralleling the Sierra Nevada Range to the east and the coastal ranges to the west (averaging 75 miles in longitudinal extent), and stopping abruptly at the Tehachapi Range in the south. Two rivers flow from opposite ends and join around the middle of the valley to form the extensive Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that flows into San Francisco Bay.

Perennial grasses that were adapted to cool-season growth once dominated the ecoregion. The deep-rooted Purple Needle Grass (Nassella pulchra) was particularly important, although Nodding Needle Grass (Stipa cernua), Wild Ryes (Elymus spp.), Lassen County Bluegrass (Poa limosa), Aristida spp., Crested Hair-grass (Koeleria pyramidata), Deergrass (Muhlenbergia rigens,), and Coast Range Melicgrass (Melica imperfecta) occurred in varying proportions. Most grass growth occurred in the late spring after winter rains and the onset of warmer and sunnier days. Interspersed among the bunchgrasses were a rich array of annual and perennial grasses and forbs, the latter creating extraordinary flowering displays during certain years. Some extensive mass flowerings of the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Lupines (Lupinus spp.), and Exserted Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja exserta) are found in this grassland ecoregion.

Prehistoric grasslands here supported several herbivores including Pronghorn Antelope (Antilocapra americana), elk (including a valley subspecies, the Tule Elk, (Cervus elaphus nannodes), Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus), California ground squirrels, gophers, mice, hare, rabbits, and kangaroo rats. Several rodents are endemics or near-endemics to southern valley habitats including the Fresno Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides exilis), Tipton Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys nitratoides nitratoides), San Joaquin Pocket Mouse (Perognathus inornatus), and Giant Kangaroo Rat (Dipodomys ingens). Predators originally included grizzly bear, gray wolf, coyote, mountain lion, ringtail, bobcat, and the San Joaquin Valley Kit Fox (Vulpes velox), a near-endemic.

The valley and associated delta once supported enormous populations of wintering waterfowl in extensive freshwater marshes. Riparian woodlands acted as important migratory pathways and breeding areas for many neotropical migratory birds. Three species of bird are largely endemic to the Central Valley, surrounding foothills, and portions of the southern coast ranges, namely, the Yellow-billed Magpie (Pica nuttalli), the Tri-colored Blackbird (Agelaius tricolor EN), and Nuttall’s Woodpecker (Picoides nuttallii).

The valley contains a number of reptile species including several endemic or near-endemic species or subspecies such as the San Joaquin Coachwhip (Masticophis flagellum ruddocki), the Blunt-nosed Leopard Lizard (Gambelia sila EN), Gilbert’s Skink (Plestiodon gilberti) and the Sierra Garter Snake (Thamnophis couchii). Lizards present in the ecoregion include: Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum NT); Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis); Southern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria multicarinata); and the Northern Alligator Lizard (Elgaria coerulea).

There are only a few amphibian species present in the California Central Valley grasslands ecoregion. Special status anuran taxa found here are: Foothill Yellow-legged Frog (Rana boylii NT); Pacific Chorus Frog (Pseudacris regilla); and Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes). The Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) occurs within this ecoregion.

Although many endemic plant species are recognized, especially those associated with vernal pools, e.g. Prickly Spiralgrass (Tuctoria mucronata). A number of invertebrates are known to be restricted to California Central Valley habitats. These include the Delta Green Ground Beetle (Elaphrus viridis CR) known only from a single vernal pool site, and the Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) found only in riparian woodlands of three California counties.

Vernal pool communities occur throughout the Central Valley in seasonally flooded depressions. Several types are recognized including valley pools in basin areas which are typically alkaline or saline, terrace pools on ancient flood terraces of higher ground, and pools on volcanic soils. Vernal pool vegetation is ancient and unique with many habitat and local endemic species. During wet springs, the rims of the pools are encircled by flowers that change in composition as the water recedes. Several aquatic invertebrates are restricted to these unique habitats including a species of fairy shrimp and tadpole shrimp.

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

© World Wildlife Fund & C. Michael Hogan

Supplier: C. Michael Hogan

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 5.0 of 5

Dispersal

Establishment

Adaptation: Deergrass can withstand periodic flooding, but it cannot tolerate poorly-drained soils. The major plant communities it inhabits include valley grassland, streamsides, and meadow habitat. Additionally, deergrass is shade-intolerant and also occurs in grassland openings within chaparral, mixed conifer forests, and oak woodland plant communities, maintained with human-set or lightning fires. On most soil types, these grassland areas quickly revert to the surrounding dominant vegetation type without human or natural disturbance.

Broadcast Seeding: In California and the Southwest, deergrass can be broadcast seeded in the late spring or summer during the months of May, June, July, and August, with irrigation. The seeds are tiny and should be broadcast on top of the ground, and then run over with a ring roller or a culti-packer to compress the seeds slightly below the soil surface. For best results, sow at least four pounds of PLS (pure live seed) per acre, which amounts to 50 seeds per square foot. Deergrass is slow growing and germination rates can vary from two weeks up to two months. Fertilization of deergrass is not recommended, as it usually gives the alien weeds a competitive edge. Site preparation is extremely important for good establishment of deergrass. Both repetitive tillage and burning are recommended to drastically curtail weed competition. Repetitive tillage involves loosening the soil, irrigating, and cultivating the area with a disc harrow, following with a ring roller to kill the flush of annual weeds. This is done several times prior to seeding to exhaust the weed seed bank. Burning involves firing all residual dry matter prior to seeding.

Container Planting: Container planting is a more effective and less time consuming way of establishing deergrass, but it is more costly than seeding on a large scale. Deergrass seed can be sown into flats or, D-pots, stubby cells, or reforestation tubes in May. Plants can be planted out from containers in the fall of the same year in soil that has been moistened with the first rains, using standard planting procedures. Plants can also be sown in the fall in flats or containers and planted out the next summer or fall in the designated area. Plants should be spaced at a minimum width of 24 inches. Irrigating is not necessary if it is a normal rainfall year. Site preparation is the same as for a broadcast seeding. Larger bunchgrasses can also be divided in winter or early spring and transplanted. A good stand of deergrass can be established by container planting in one and one half years. It is thought that container planting with grown plugs is more effective than a seeding.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

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

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

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

If possible, gather the seed from local sources, to maintain genetic diversity of deergrass. The flower stalks can be cut, bundled, and then beat over a tarp or bucket to release the seeds. The seeds are usually highly viable, and do not need special treatment. This grass is available from nurseries handling native plants.

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.”

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Once established, deergrass is quite drought-tolerant. To maintain its vigor and reduce accumulated dead material, deergrass can be mowed or burned every several years. Burning or mowing should be in the fall, after it has gone to seed. Many tribes historically and probably prehistorically enhanced deergrass populations through firing deergrass stands in the fall in California every two to five years. Indian-set fires increased flower stalk yields, recycled nutrients, cleared away detritus, and promoted seedling production in the midst of reduced competition from other plants. According to Native American elders, these fires maintained the bunchgrass in greater numbers than would have occurred under natural conditions. Knowledge of past indigenous fire management of deergrass has important implications for mountain meadow habitat management for wildlife and maintenance of grassland openings within shrublands, woodlands, and forests for preservation of indigenous cultural traditions. Some areas could be managed with the dual objectives of indigenous harvesting of flower stalks and grazing after culm harvest. There are several fungi that infect the leaves of deergrass, causing debilitation, but usually not death. A fire would eliminate these pathogens.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Uses

Ethnobotanic: Deergrass is a significant basketry material to central and southern California Native Americans who utilize the flower stalks in the foundations of coiled baskets. Frequently thousands of flower stalks are needed for completion of each basket. Culms are gathered in late spring while still green, or summer or early fall when golden brown depending upon the tribe, individual family preference and elevation of the deergrass site.

Wildlife: In California, dense patches of deergrass provide cover during the fawning period of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in mountain meadows and grassland openings. The younger palatable tufts are grazed by deer, horses, and cattle and can remain palatable if continually grazed. It is particularly sought for forage by animals when first resprouting after a burn. Older tufts are poor feed for livestock. The seeds provide food for songbirds and probably other birds as well. In sunny openings where deergrass occurs, it forms a larval food plant for one of the Satyrid butterflies, the California ringlet (Coenonympha california) and for the umber skipper (Poanes melane). Massive numbers of ladybugs overwinter in deergrass clumps.

Conservation: Deergrass is a valuable streambank stabilizer, as it has an extensive root system, and if grown in dense enough colonies, it can be an effective weed suppresser. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric is experimenting with growing dense colonies under powerline corridors. It's long, slender culms, and tall tufts making it an attractive plant for the garden.

Other Uses: Uses of deergrass include streambank stabilization, landscaping, forage, insectary, weed suppressant, and wildlife.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Muhlenbergia rigens

Muhlenbergia rigens, commonly known as Deergrass, is a warm season perennial bunchgrass found in sandy or well drained soils below 7,000 feet (2,100 m) in elevation in the Southwestern United States and parts of Mexico.

Description[edit]

The plant Muhlenbergia rigens is characterized by dense, tufted basal foliage consisting of narrow pointed leaves that reach lengths of about 3 feet (0.91 m) and range in color from light silver-green to purple. The spikelike stems are less than half an inch wide and 3–4 feet (0.91–1.22 m) in length. During bloom, the numerous flowered panicles often reach heights of five feet and terminate in a single awnless floret with a 3-nerved lemma. Deergrass is characteristic of tallgrass prairie of much of the Western United States.

Distribution[edit]

The native range of the grass extends north into Shasta County, California, and south into New Mexico, Texas and Mexico. There it inhabits a wide range of ecotypes including grassland, riparian, chaparral, mixed conifer, and oak woodland communities. Deergrass can grow in areas with periodic flooding, but cannot tolerate standing water and poorly drained soils. It prefers full sun but is shade-tolerant.[1]

Uses[edit]

The young shoots are browsed by a variety of animals,[2] but with age the plant becomes unpalatable and is useful in an exposed garden setting for its deer resistance.[3] It has also been used for erosion prevention and streambank stabilization because of extensive root systems. Restoration efforts currently use deergrass to displace exotic invasive annuals that dominate current grassland ecosystems as well as remediate overtilled and eroded agricultural land where they anchor loose soils and return lost organic matter. Phytoremediative studies have also been conducted to test deergrass’s ability to remove chemicals from agricultural runoff. Deergrass’s dense stands and extensive roots act as a biofilter effective for herbicide, pesticide and particulate removal and breakdown.

Among the Zuni people. the grass is attached to the sticks of plume offerings to anthropic gods.[4]

Cultivation and habitat restoration[edit]

Muhlenbergia rigens, Deergrass, can be established in late spring and early summer by broadcast seeding with irrigation. For best results, 50 seeds per square foot are planted then lightly incorporated just below the soil surface with a culti-packer. Establishment is most successful when steps are taken to mitigate weed growth. Burning, discing and reduced fertilization schemes to reduce the weed seed bank are recommended.

Container planting is a highly effective way of establishing Deergrass. The seed can be sown in flats in May and transplanted in the fall of the same year. In California, except in areas of heavy frost, Muhlenbegia rigens can be successfully planted out in winter and spring to take advantage of seasonal rainfall.[5] Stand preparation should be the same as when broadcast-seeded. During transplant, plants should be spaced with a minimum of two feet between them. After establishment little management is required. Irrigation is unnecessary in normal rainfall years and fertilization is not recommended as it may increase weed competition. Burning or mowing can be used every few years to reduce accumulated dead matter.

Because Muhlenbergia rigens uses C4 carbon fixation, it gains an advantage in conditions of drought and high temperature. This characteristic, along with its attractiveness, has gained the plant recent attention as an ornamental in xeriscapes in yards and parks. Studies have also demonstrated a high tolerance to salt suggesting possible irrigation using low quality reclaimed waste-water sources at very low cost.[6]

Wildlife[edit]

Muhlenbergia rigens is a cover for mule deer during fawning periods and studies have equated reduced deer populations with overgrazed deergrass stands in and near cattle pasture.[7] Young shoots and leaves are grazed by deer, horses and cattle. The tall grass is an overwintering host for many species of Lepidoptera and ladybug, which along with deergrass seed, provides food for many different bird species.

History[edit]

Deergrass was important to many Native American tribes who used its long seedstalks as the principal material in coiled baskets. Deergrass underwent an early form of cultivation by many California tribes who regularly burned areas to maintain stands of deergrass, and induce the production of long straight stalks for use in basketry. Each basket required over 3000 stalks, driving the need for cultivation[8] It is believed that much of deergrass’s current distribution is due to propagation by Native Americans.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Muhlenbergia rigens-Deer Grass_Habit and Cultural Information". 
  2. ^ "Muhlenbergia rigens: A Grass for All Seasons, All Reasons_Muhlenbergia rigens_UC". 
  3. ^ "Yerba Buena Nursery_California Native Plants & Ferns". 
  4. ^ Stevenson, Matilda Coxe 1915 Ethnobotany of the Zuni Indians. SI-BAE Annual Report #30 (p. 91)
  5. ^ "Manual of California Native Plants_Las Pilitas Nursery". 
  6. ^ Hunter, KAM, Wu, L. (2005). Morphological and Physiological Response of Five Californian Native Grass Species to Moderate Salt Spray: Implications for Landscape Irrigation with Reclaimed Water. Journal of Plant Nutrition. 28 247-270
  7. ^ Bowyer, RT. Bleich, VC. (1984). Effects of cattle grazing on selected habitats of southern mule deer. California Fish and Game. 70:4 240-247
  8. ^ Jordan, TA. (2003). Ecological and Cultural Contributions of Controlled Fire Use by Native Californians: A Survey of Literature. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 27:1 77-90.
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!