Overview

Comprehensive Description

Description

General: Lily Family (Liliaceae). This native, acaulescent perennial has long, narrow leaves with small teeth along their margins. The leaves are narrow--6-12 mm. wide and 6-12 dm. long. Beargrass has a dense cluster of white flowers on a long stalk, up to 2 m tall. The flowers are minute and cream-tan, and the round fruits are deeply notched at the apex. The seeds are light yellow-brown to nearly black and finely wrinkled.

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Alternative names

Sacahuista

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Distribution

States or Provinces

(key to state/province abbreviations)
UNITED STATES
AZ NM UT

MEXICO
Chih. Coah. Dgo. N.L. Son.

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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]:

7 Lower Basin and Range

12 Colorado Plateau
  • 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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Sacahuista is a native species found throughout Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico [36,41]. Utah's Washington County represents sacahuista's northernmost distribution [76]. Taxonomists disagree on sacahuista's range in western Texas. Some indicate that sacahuista occurs in the Trans Pecos region of Texas [41,55], while others report no sacahuista in western Texas [25]. Flora of North America provides a distributional map for sacahuista.
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 41. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 55. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees and shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas: Including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]
  • 76. 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]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]

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Localities documented in Tropicos sources

Nolina microcarpa S. Watson:
China (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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Ariz., N.Mex.; n Mexico.
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National Distribution

United States

Origin: Unknown/Undetermined

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Unknown/Undetermined

Confidence: Confident

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For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

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USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, UC Davis Arboretum, & Tucson NRCS Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Physical Description

Morphology

Description

More info for the terms: caudex, dioecious, forb, shrub

Sacahuista is an erect to spreading perennial shrub or large forb that forms clumps up to 6.6 feet (2 m) in diameter. Plants are acaulescent and have a large woody caudex. Variation in form and appearance can be substantial [19,25,36,55]. Numerous narrow leaves arise from the caudex. Leaves are fibrous, thick, coarse, and typically have serrate margins. Leaves measure 1.6 to 3.9 feet (0.5-1.2 m) long and 0.2 to 0.5 inch (5-12 mm) wide [20,25,41]. Southwestern Nolina species are primarily dioecious [24]. Flowers are arranged in a panicle and are supported by a stout stem that may reach 5.9 feet (1.8 m) tall [19,76]. Sacahuista produces thin, papery, 3-lobed, 3-seeded capsules. Capsules measure 4 to 6 mm long and 6 to 8 mm wide [19,41,76]. Seeds, which are 2 to 3.5 mm in diameter, are exposed only after fruits dehisce [19,55].

Some describe sacahuista as slow growing [34]. During a long-term grazing study in central Arizona chaparral, 2 sacahuista plants, 1 inside and 1 outside an exclosure, were monitored periodically from 1920 to 1967. By 1967 both plants were dead, suggesting that the sacahuista life span may be less than 50 years [54].

This description provides characteristics that may be relevant to fire ecology, and is not meant for identification. Keys for identification are available (e.g., [25,41,55,76]).

  • 19. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 20. Crosswhite, Frank S.; Crosswhite, Carol D. 1984. A classification of life forms of the Sonoran Desert, with emphasis on the seed plants and their survival strategies. Desert Plants. 5: 131-161. [45807]
  • 34. Johnson, Donald E.; Mukhtar, Hashim A. M.; Mapston, Raymond; Humphrey, R. R. 1962. The mortality of oak-juniper woodland species following a wild fire. Journal of Range Management. 15: 201-205. [129]
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 41. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 54. Pond, Floyd W. 1971. Chaparral: 47 years later. Res. Pap. RM-69. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 11 p. [1905]
  • 55. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees and shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas: Including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]
  • 76. 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]
  • 24. Faucon, Philippe. 2004. Nolina, [Online]. In: Desert tropicals. Philippe Faucon (Producer). Available: http://www.desert-tropicals.com/Plants/Agavaceae/Nolina.html [2007, January 29]. [65478]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]

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Description

Plants acaulescent, cespitose; rosettes from vertical, subterranean, branched caudices. Leaf blades wiry, lax, concavo-convex, 80–130 cm ´ 5–12 mm, not glaucous; margins serrulate, with close-set, cartilaginous teeth; apex lacerate; inflorescence leaf blades curling distally, 10–50 cm. Scape 3–15 dm, 1.2–2.5 cm diam. Inflorescences paniculate, 4–12 dm × 10–30 cm, surpassing leaves; bracts caducous, rarely persistent; bractlets 2–5 mm, slightly erose. Flowers: tepals white, 1.5–3.3 mm; fertile stamens: filaments 1.6–1.9 mm, anthers 1.2–1.4 mm; infertile stamens: filaments 0.9–1.2 mm, anthers 0.3–0.5 mm; fruiting pedicel erect, proximal to joint 1–2 mm, distal to joint 3–6 mm. Capsules hyaline, thin-walled, inflated, 4.2–6 × 5.4–6.4 mm, indistinctly notched at apex. Seeds loosely invested in capsules, compressed, 2.2–3.4 × 1.5–3 mm. 2n = 38.
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Diagnostic Description

Synonym

Nolina caudata Trelease
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Type Information

Type collection for Nolina microcarpa S. Watson
Catalog Number: US 35929
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): J. T. Rothrock
Year Collected: 1874
Locality: Rocky Canon., Arizona, United States, North America
  • Type collection: Watson, S. 1879. Proc. Amer. Acad. Arts. 14: 247.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat characteristics

More info for the terms: density, shrub

Sacahuista is typical on rocky slopes and hillsides in high desert grasslands and in oak or pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.) woodlands [25,55,76].

In southeastern Arizona [47,75] and on the Guadalupe Escarpment of New Mexico and Texas [28], sacahuista is typically most important on moderate to steep north-facing slopes. In a study of vegetation and terrain in southeastern Arizona, Mouat [47] found that sacahuista was predominant on steep slopes with angles averaging over 45%. Sacahuista was also associated with hilly and mountainous terrain with a high density of drainages (generally, >6 mi/mi²).

Climate: Semiarid climates are common in sacahuista habitats. Climate is variable in Arizona chaparral. Dry sites average 16 inches (400 mm) of annual precipitation, and wet sites average 26 inches (650 mm) of annual precipitation. However, extreme lows and highs can be 7.9 inches (200 mm) and 47 inches (1,200 mm) for the respective sites. Moisture occurs in a bimodal pattern. Approximately 55% of annual precipitation comes from November to April and 35% from July to September in convection storms [15]. In western montane chaparral in Nuevo Leon, Mexico, the climate is cool semiarid. Average low and high temperatures are 52 °F (11 °C) and 62 °F (16.5 °C), respectively. Annual precipitation measures 30 to 39 inches (750-1,000 mm), and most comes from June to September [48].

Elevation: Sacahuista elevational tolerances by state or region are provided below:

State/region Elevation (feet)
Arizona 3,000-6,500 [36]
     Mojave County 3,900 [19]
     southeastern Arizona most common from 4,000-6,000 [47]
New Mexico 4,000-8,000 [41]
New Mexico and Texas (Guadalupe Escarpment) most typical above 5,000 [28]
Utah (Washington County) 3,900 [76]

Soils: Shallow, rocky, unfertile soils are described for sacahuista habitats [53,75]. In southeastern Arizona, sacahuista occurs primarily on nonalluvial parent materials [47]. Emory oak/pointleaf manzanita-sacahuista vegetation on Fort Bowie National Historic Site occurs mainly on igneous or metamorphic rock substrates [75]. Shrub steppe vegetation dominated by sacahuista in New Mexico's Peloncillo Mountains occurs on coarse loamy Cumulic Haplustoll soils [45]. In the Santa Catalina Mountains of Arizona, sacahuista occurs on both limestone and noncalcareous soils [80]. In central New Mexico, sacahuista occurred on a recent lava flow (<1,000 years old) but not on surrounding plains [62].

  • 15. Carmichael, R. S.; Knipe, O. D.; Pase, C. P.; Brady, W. W. 1978. Arizona chaparral: plant associations and ecology. Res. Pap. RM-202. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 16 p. [3038]
  • 19. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 28. Gehlbach, Frederick R. 1967. Vegetation of the Guadalupe Escarpment, New Mexico-Texas. Ecology. 48(3): 404-419. [5149]
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 41. Martin, William C.; Hutchins, Charles R. 1981. A flora of New Mexico. Volume 2. Germany: J. Cramer. 2589 p. [37176]
  • 45. Moir, William H. 1979. Soil-vegetation patterns in the central Peloncillo Mountains, New Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist. 102(2): 317-331. [4634]
  • 47. Mouat, David A. 1974. Relationships between vegetation and terrain variables in southeastern Arizona. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 242 p. Thesis. [50426]
  • 48. Muller, Cornelius H. 1939. Relations of the vegetation and climatic types in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist. 21(3): 687-729. [64761]
  • 53. Pieper, Rex D. 1977. The southwestern pinyon-juniper ecosystem. In: Aldon, Earl F.; Loring, Thomas J., technical coordinators. Ecology, uses, and management of pinyon-juniper woodlands: Proceedings of the workshop; 1977 March 24-25; Albuquerque, NM. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-39. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 1-6. [17251]
  • 55. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees and shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas: Including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]
  • 62. Shields, Lora Mangum; Crispin, Joe. 1956. Vascular vegetation of a recent volcanic area in New Mexico. Ecology. 37(2): 341-351. [48580]
  • 75. Warren, Peter L.; Hoy, Marina S.; Hoy, Wilton E. 1992. Vegetation and flora of Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Arizona. Tech. Rep. NPS/WRUA/NRTR-92/43. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit. 78 p. [19871]
  • 76. 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]
  • 80. Whittaker, R. H.; Niering, W. A. 1975. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. V. Biomass, production, and diversity along the elevation gradient. Ecology. 56(4): 771-790. [35729]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]

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Key Plant Community Associations

More info for the term: shrub

Sacahuista is locally dominant or important in Chihuahua desertscrub, Madrean
evergreen woodlands, and semidesert grasslands in the Southwest [10,11,12]. Sacahuista
is dominant or subdominant in the following vegetation types and communities:

Arizona:


  • grama (Bouteloua spp.)/sacahuista vegetation type [47]



  • open oak woodlands dominated by Mexican blue oak (Quercus oblongifolia)
    and Emory oak (Q. emoryi) [80]



  • oak (Quercus spp.)/sacahuista vegetation type [47]



  • encinal vegetation in the Santa Catalina Mountains [64]



  • Emory oak/pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens)-sacahuista
    vegetation on the Fort Bowie National Historic Site [75]



  • pygmy conifer-oak communities in the Santa Catalina Mountains with an
    overstory of Mexican pinyon (Pinus cembroides), alligator juniper (Juniperus deppeana), and/or
    silverleaf oak (Q. hypoleucoides) [50,80]


  • pine-oak woodlands dominated by ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa),
    Chihuahua pine (P. leiophylla var. chihuahuana), silverleaf oak,
    and/or Arizona white oak (Q. arizonica) in the Santa Catalina Mountains [80]



  • Mexican pinyon-Arizona white oak/sacahuista woodlands (USFS cited in [44])

New Mexico:


  • shrub steppe in Peloncillo Mountains [45]



  • oneseed juniper (J. monosperma)/sacahuista-lechuguilla (Agave lechuguilla) in
    the Guadalupe and Sacramento mountains [66]



  • oneseed juniper-Colorado pinyon (P. edulis)
    woodlands in Fort Bayard [43]

Nuevo Leon, Mexico:

  • western montane chaparral [48]

  • 10. Brown, David E. 1982. Chihuahuan desertscrub. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 169-179. [3607]
  • 11. Brown, David E. 1982. Madrean evergreen woodland. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 59-65. [8886]
  • 12. Brown, David E. 1982. Semidesert grassland. In: Brown, David E., ed. Biotic communities of the American Southwest--United States and Mexico. Desert Plants. 4(1-4): 123-131. [3603]
  • 43. Medina, Alvin L. 1987. Woodland communities and soils of Fort Bayard, southwestern New Mexico. Journal of the Arizona-Nevada Academy of Science. 21: 99-112. [3978]
  • 44. Moir, W. H.; Carleton, J. O. 1987. Classification of pinyon-juniper (p-j) sites on national forests in the Southwest. In: Everett, Richard L., compiler. Proceedings--pinyon-juniper conference; 1986 January 13-16; Reno, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-215. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station: 216-226. [6852]
  • 45. Moir, William H. 1979. Soil-vegetation patterns in the central Peloncillo Mountains, New Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist. 102(2): 317-331. [4634]
  • 47. Mouat, David A. 1974. Relationships between vegetation and terrain variables in southeastern Arizona. Corvallis, OR: Oregon State University. 242 p. Thesis. [50426]
  • 48. Muller, Cornelius H. 1939. Relations of the vegetation and climatic types in Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The American Midland Naturalist. 21(3): 687-729. [64761]
  • 50. Niering, William A.; Lowe, Charles H. 1984. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains: community types and dynamics. Vegetatio. 58: 3-28. [12037]
  • 64. Shreve, Forrest. 1917. The vegetation of a desert mountain range as conditioned by climatic factors. The Journal of Ecology. 5(1): 45-52. [64753]
  • 66. Stuever, Mary C.; Hayden, John S. 1996. Plant associations (habitat types) of the forests and woodlands of Arizona and New Mexico. Final report: Contract R3-95-27. Placitas, NM: Seldom Seen Expeditions, Inc. 520 p. [28868]
  • 75. Warren, Peter L.; Hoy, Marina S.; Hoy, Wilton E. 1992. Vegetation and flora of Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Arizona. Tech. Rep. NPS/WRUA/NRTR-92/43. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources, Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit. 78 p. [19871]
  • 80. Whittaker, R. H.; Niering, W. A. 1975. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona. V. Biomass, production, and diversity along the elevation gradient. Ecology. 56(4): 771-790. [35729]

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Habitat: Rangeland Cover Types

More info on this topic.

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

More info for the terms: cover, shrub

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [63]:

412 Juniper-pinyon woodland

416 True mountain-mahogany

502 Grama-galleta

503 Arizona chaparral

504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland

505 Grama-tobosa shrub

507 Palo verde-cactus

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

702 Black grama-alkali sacaton

703 Black grama-sideoats grama

704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass

705 Blue grama-galleta

706 Blue grama-sideoats grama

707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama

713 Grama-muhly-threeawn

714 Grama-bluestem

715 Grama-buffalo grass

716 Grama-feathergrass
  • 63. 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 [23]:

237 Interior ponderosa pine

239 Pinyon-juniper

241 Western live oak
  • 23. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]

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Habitat: Plant Associations

More info on this topic.

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

More info for the term: shrub

KUCHLER [38] PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:

K019 Arizona pine forest

K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland

K031 Oak-juniper woodland

K043 Paloverde-cactus shrub

K053 Grama-galleta steppe

K054 Grama-tobosa prairie

K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
  • 38. 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 [27]:

FRES21 Ponderosa pine

FRES30 Desert shrub

FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe

FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub

FRES35 Pinyon-juniper

FRES38 Plains grasslands

FRES40 Desert grasslands
  • 27. 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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Rocky hillsides, desert grasslands, oak and pinyon pine-juniper woodlands; 900--1900m.
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Dispersal

Establishment

Adaptation: The plant is found on exposed mountainsides throughout much of Arizona, and similar elevations eastward through New Mexico into western Texas and adjacent Chihuahua and northeastern Sonora.

General: Establish the plant by seed. Plant the seeds in a flat in a nursery at a depth that is the width of the seeds. The seeds should be planted in the spring in well-drained soil with a coarse layer of sand on top and gently watered. Protect the flat from animals. Let the surface of the soil dry out between watering. If the flats are watered too often, this can cause the plants to rot. A good indicator of over-watering is that the plants wilt. Once the seedlings have leaves and are at least two inches tall with sturdiness to them, transplant them into individual pots with good drainage holes. After transplanting, put the containers in a shady area that is protected from wind and animals such as a lath house or a shady grove of trees.

After one and one-half years, plant the plants outdoors in lower elevations in mid-to-late fall or early winter. In higher elevations where the ground freezes, it is best to plant the plants when the ground thaws. After planting, water the plants and let them dry out on the surface between watering. During the rainy season, supplement with hand watering if the rains are insufficient. Plant the plants in a well-drained, well-aerated soil. Plant in partial shade, using a shade cloth or other means until well-established and then remove the shade cloth to expose the plant to full sun. Water the plant through the summer. It will be necessary to water the plant for several years until well established. In areas without summer rainfall, continue to water the plant in summer throughout the life of the plant.

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General Ecology

Fire Management Considerations

More info for the terms: fire severity, severity

Most studies of fire's effect on sacahuista report just early postfire survival and recovery and lack information on fire severity and/or intensity. A lack of fire severity comparisons, long-term fire studies, and studies on repeatedly burned sites leaves many gaps in the knowledge required to properly manage fire in sacahuista habitats.

Fuel moisture: The average moisture content was 110% and ranged from 101% to 117% for 4 sacahuista samples collected from the Chiricahua National Monument in November [58].

  • 58. Rice, Carol. 1989. Live fuel moisture sampling methods for Chiricahua National Monument. Tech. Rep. No. 27. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, School of Renewable Resources; Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit. 28 p. [15800]

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Broad-scale Impacts of Plant Response to Fire

More info for the terms: caudex, density, fire frequency, fire severity, frequency, fuel, severity, wildfire

Although sacahuista survives most fires, coverage and/or density are generally lower
on burned than unburned sites. Fires typically burn into the sacahuista crown,
resulting in burned plants that are
smaller than those on unburned sites. Humphrey [33] found
that sacahuista abundance increased with decreased fire frequency in southwestern
grasslands and suggests that repeated fire may kill sacahuista. However,
quantitative data and field observations are lacking from repeatedly burned
sacahuista habitats.

Sacahuista density was not changed significantly 2 years following a spring fire in the Malpai Borderlands.
Sacahuista was top-killed and sprouted after the fire, but fire severity was not reported
[21]. Sacahuista decreased after a fire above the Molino Basin in
Arizona's Santa Catalina
Mountains. Neither fire characteristics nor sacahuista abundance comparisons were provided
[50]. Density of sacahuista was typically lower on burned than unburned sites
in the 1st and 2nd years following a late June wildfire near Sasabe, Arizona, and density decreased on
northern slopes between the 1st and 2nd postfire growing seasons. Fire severity
was not reported [78].
After a late June fire in a Madrean oak woodland in the Santa Catalina
Mountains, sacahuista coverage decreased. Fire severity was not reported. Burned
plots, stratified by aspect, were visited 10 months and 2.5 years after
the fire. Southern, eastern, and northern aspects were described as "very open,
open, and relatively" dense woodlands, respectively. Canopy dominants
were Emory oak and Mexican blue oak, and there was no evidence of recent fire
in the study area. Sacahuista recovered to unburned coverage by 2.5 years after the
fire on southern but not on eastern or northern slopes. Few sacahuista plants
died, and the frequency of sacahuista on pooled burned and unburned plots was
not different. Plants sprouted
quickly from the outer edges of the caudex. Researchers noted that plants were
very leafy on unburned sites and measured the largest fuel
load when sacahuista fell within the 10-foot² (1 m²) quadrat.
Meristem protection at or below the soil surface likely affected survival.
Sacahuista coverage on burned and unburned
plots is summarized below [13,14]:
Time since fire 10 months2.5 years
AspectSENSEN
 

% coverage

Unburned3.51.314.43.20.814.3
Burned1.401.43.801.8

Sacahuista numbers and "vigor" had declined 2 years after fire on sites
burned in mid-June in an oak-juniper
woodland in the Box Canyon of the Santa Rita Mountains. Fire characteristics
were not reported. On burned sites, 10% of sacahuista plants were dead, 10% were producing a few
weak sprouts but dying back, and 15% produced sprouts but were in a "weakened"
condition. Researchers doubted the survival of all "weakened" plants. Fifty-two percent of
sacahuista plants had slight damage but were not as "vigorous" as unburned
plants, and 13% had recovered to the unburned condition [34].
Survival of sacahuista was better than in the above study on 2 burned
semidesert grassland sites in southern Arizona. Burned areas within the Buenos
Aires National Wildlife Refuge and in the Dry Canyon of the
Whetstone Mountains were studied 1 to 14 months after burning. Survival was
evaluated using unburned reference
sites as a measure of the prefire condition. Fuel loads were 435 g/m² in
the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and 179 g/m² in the Dry Canyon. Fire season and severity were not
described. Sacahuista mortality was 4%. Ninety-six percent of surviving sacahuista recovered
through sprout production, and 4% escaped the fire in unburned refugia. Although extensive searches for seedlings on
burned sites were conducted, researchers found no sacahuista seedlings [69].
  • 13. Caprio, Anthony C.; Zwolinski, Malcolm J. 1995. Fire and vegetation in a Madrean oak woodland, Santa Catalina Mountains, southeastern Arizona. In: DeBano, Leonard F.; Ffolliott, Peter F.; Ortega-Rubio, Alfredo; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Hamre, Robert H.; Edminster, Carleton B., technical coordinators. Biodiversity and management of the Madrean Archipelago: the Sky Islands of southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico: Proceedings; 1994 September 19-23; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-GRT-264. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 389-398. [26246]
  • 14. Caprio, Anthony Conger. 1994. Fire effects and vegetation response in a Madrean oak woodland, southeastern Arizona. Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources. 297 p. Thesis. [24079]
  • 21. Curtin, Charles G. 2003. Fire as a landscape restoration and management tool in the Malpai Borderlands. In: Galley, Krista E. M.; Klinger, Robert C.; Sugihara, Neil G., eds. Proceedings of fire conference 2000: the 1st national congress on fire ecology, prevention, and management; 2000 November 27-December 1; San Diego, CA. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 79-87. [51381]
  • 33. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Forage production on Arizona ranges. V. Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz Counties. Bulletin 502. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 137 p. [4520]
  • 34. Johnson, Donald E.; Mukhtar, Hashim A. M.; Mapston, Raymond; Humphrey, R. R. 1962. The mortality of oak-juniper woodland species following a wild fire. Journal of Range Management. 15: 201-205. [129]
  • 50. Niering, William A.; Lowe, Charles H. 1984. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains: community types and dynamics. Vegetatio. 58: 3-28. [12037]
  • 69. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894]
  • 78. White, Larry D. 1965. The effects of a wildfire on a desert grassland community. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona. 107 p. Thesis. [5552]

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Plant Response to Fire

More info for the term: caudex

Sacahuista sprouts from the caudex following fire. Sprouts arise from meristems at or just below soil surface [15,69]. Seedlings on burned sites were not reported in any of the available fire studies; however, just a single study mentions an extensive search for seedlings on 1- to 14-year-old burned sites [69].
  • 15. Carmichael, R. S.; Knipe, O. D.; Pase, C. P.; Brady, W. W. 1978. Arizona chaparral: plant associations and ecology. Res. Pap. RM-202. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 16 p. [3038]
  • 69. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894]

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Immediate Effect of Fire

Sacahuista is typically only top-killed by fire [21,33]. Mortality rates in the available fire studies range from 4% to 20% or more [34,69]. Sacahuista survival in unburned refugia has also been noted [69].
  • 21. Curtin, Charles G. 2003. Fire as a landscape restoration and management tool in the Malpai Borderlands. In: Galley, Krista E. M.; Klinger, Robert C.; Sugihara, Neil G., eds. Proceedings of fire conference 2000: the 1st national congress on fire ecology, prevention, and management; 2000 November 27-December 1; San Diego, CA. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 79-87. [51381]
  • 33. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Forage production on Arizona ranges. V. Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz Counties. Bulletin 502. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 137 p. [4520]
  • 34. Johnson, Donald E.; Mukhtar, Hashim A. M.; Mapston, Raymond; Humphrey, R. R. 1962. The mortality of oak-juniper woodland species following a wild fire. Journal of Range Management. 15: 201-205. [129]
  • 69. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894]

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Post-fire Regeneration

More info for the term: root crown

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [65]:
Caudex/herbaceous root crown, growing points in soil
  • 65. 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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Fire Ecology

More info for the terms: caudex, density, fire frequency, fire intensity, fire regime, fire suppression, fire-return interval, frequency, fuel, severity, shrub, tree

Fire adaptations: Sacahuista sprouts from the caudex following fire [21,69]. Postfire seedling establishment was not reported in the available literature (as of 2007).

FIRE REGIMES: Southwestern grasslands and woodlands that provide sacahuista habitat burned repeatedly in past centuries. Climatic conditions and fuel structure in these habitats are conducive to fire ignition and spread.

Research has shown that fire may affect sacahuista abundance, and that sacahuista may affect fire behavior and severity. Some researchers indicate that the range and density of sacahuista have increased on Arizona rangelands since 1900. Twenty percent or more kill of sacahuista after a fire in an oak-juniper woodland in the Santa Rita Mountains [34] suggests that fire restricts this slow growing species and that replacement of individuals would be slow if fires were recurring. See Discussion and Qualification of Plant Response for more on this study. Sacahuista's effect on fire behavior and severity was noted in the Chiricahua National Monument. Sacahuista reportedly "increases locally the fire intensity and flame height," and produces scorch and char heights that are "dramatically higher" on trees located above sacahuista plants [58].

Fire season: Fires in the Southwest are most common in late spring and early summer but are possible through the fall season. Lightning strikes occur from April to November but reach peak levels before the end of July. In National Forests of Arizona and New Mexico, 60% of the annual burned area burned in June lightning fires [6].

Fire frequency: Southwestern desert grasslands are thought to have burned repeatedly, and fire suppression efforts following European settlement are often associated with woody species increases and encroachment [31,32]. The fire frequency in Arizona grasslands before European settlement and heavy grazing in the area was estimated at 10 years [40], and Wright [81] indicates, in a review, that fires may have occurred at intervals of less than 10 years in southern New Mexico. Open oak woodlands in Santa Catalina Mountains dominated by Emory oak, Mexican blue oak, and alligator juniper easily carry fire, and woodland structure and composition are considered a result of fire and drought conditions [50].

Using newspaper reports of wildfires in southeastern Arizona, Bahre [4] summarized that fire size was greater from 1859 to 1890 than in the 1980s. From1859 to 1890, wildfires were fairly frequent and burned in all vegetation types. However, fires were twice as frequent in conifer forests and oak-juniper woodlands than in grasslands and 3 times as frequent in grasslands as in desert scrub communities. Occurrence of fires decreased after 1882 due in part to heavy grazing in the area that reduced fine fuels that carry fire [4].

Researchers determined the past fire regime for Chiricahua National Monument's Rhyolite Canyon from fire scars and living tree age structures. The canyon study area ranged from 5,381 to 7,313 feet (1,640-2,229 m). The mean fire-return interval for fires that burned most or all of the canyon was an estimated 14.6 years and ranged from 9 to 22 years for the 1655 to 1801 time period. After 1851, fires were recorded in the upper and middle portions of the canyon until 1886 when the last widespread fire was recorded. In the lower canyon, the fire-return interval decreased to 6 years from 1852 to 1924 [67].

The following table provides fire-return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where sacahuista is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire-Return Interval Range (years)
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica <35 to <100 [51]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. <35 [51,82]
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii <35 [51,59,82]
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides <35 [51,82]
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii <35 to <100 [51]
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum 52,77]
paloverde-cactus shrub Cercidium spp./Opuntia spp. <35 to <100
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. <35 [51]
Mexican pinyon Pinus cembroides 20-70 [46,68]
Colorado pinyon Pinus edulis 10-400+ [26,29,37,51]
interior ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-30 [3,5,39]
Arizona pine Pinus ponderosa var. arizonica 2-15 [5,18,61]
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp. <35 to <200 [51]
*fire-return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species review
  • 3. Arno, Stephen F. 2000. Fire in western forest ecosystems. In: Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. Wildland fire in ecosystems: Effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-vol. 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 97-120. [36984]
  • 5. Baisan, Christopher H.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1990. Fire history on a desert mountain range: Rincon Mountain Wilderness, Arizona, U.S.A. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 20: 1559-1569. [14986]
  • 29. Gottfried, Gerald J.; Swetnam, Thomas W.; Allen, Craig D.; Betancourt, Julio L.; Chung-MacCoubrey, Alice L. 1995. Pinyon-juniper woodlands. In: Finch, Deborah M.; Tainter, Joseph A., eds. Ecology, diversity, and sustainability of the Middle Rio Grande Basin. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-GTR-268. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 95-132. [26188]
  • 4. Bahre, Conrad J. 1985. Wildfire in southeastern Arizona between 1859 and 1890. Desert Plants. 7(4): 190-194. [37739]
  • 6. Barrows, Jack S. 1978. Lightning fires in southwestern forests. Final report: Cooperative Agreement 16-156 CA. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT. 154 p. [40057]
  • 18. Cooper, Charles F. 1960. Changes in vegetation, structure, and growth of southwestern pine forests since white settlement. Ecological Monographs. 30(2): 129-164. [3927]
  • 21. Curtin, Charles G. 2003. Fire as a landscape restoration and management tool in the Malpai Borderlands. In: Galley, Krista E. M.; Klinger, Robert C.; Sugihara, Neil G., eds. Proceedings of fire conference 2000: the 1st national congress on fire ecology, prevention, and management; 2000 November 27-December 1; San Diego, CA. Miscellaneous Publication No. 13. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 79-87. [51381]
  • 26. Floyd, M. Lisa; Romme, William H.; Hanna, David D. 2000. Fire history and vegetation pattern in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, USA. Ecological Applications. 10(6): 1666-1680. [37590]
  • 31. Humphrey, R. R. 1958. The desert grassland. Botanical Review. 24: 193-253. [36271]
  • 32. Humphrey, Robert R. 1958. The desert grassland: A history of vegetational change and an analysis of causes. Bull. 299. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 61 p. [5270]
  • 34. Johnson, Donald E.; Mukhtar, Hashim A. M.; Mapston, Raymond; Humphrey, R. R. 1962. The mortality of oak-juniper woodland species following a wild fire. Journal of Range Management. 15: 201-205. [129]
  • 39. Laven, R. D.; Omi, P. N.; Wyant, J. G.; Pinkerton, A. S. 1980. Interpretation of fire scar data from a ponderosa pine ecosystem in the central Rocky Mountains, Colorado. In: Stokes, Marvin A.; Dieterich, John H., tech. coords. Proceedings of the fire history workshop; 1980 October 20-24; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-81. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 46-49. [7183]
  • 40. Leopold, Aldo. 1924. Grass, brush, timber, and fire in southern Arizona. Journal of Forestry. 22(6): 1-10. [5056]
  • 46. Moir, William H. 1982. A fire history of the High Chisos, Big Bend National Park, Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist. 27(1): 87-98. [5916]
  • 50. Niering, William A.; Lowe, Charles H. 1984. Vegetation of the Santa Catalina Mountains: community types and dynamics. Vegetatio. 58: 3-28. [12037]
  • 51. Paysen, Timothy E.; Ansley, R. James; Brown, James K.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Haase, Sally M.; Harrington, Michael G.; Narog, Marcia G.; Sackett, Stephen S.; Wilson, Ruth C. 2000. Fire in western shrubland, woodland, and grassland ecosystems. In: Brown, James K.; Smith, Jane Kapler, eds. Wildland fire in ecosystems: Effects of fire on flora. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-42-volume 2. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 121-159. [36978]
  • 58. Rice, Carol. 1989. Live fuel moisture sampling methods for Chiricahua National Monument. Tech. Rep. No. 27. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, School of Renewable Resources; Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit. 28 p. [15800]
  • 59. Rowe, J. S. 1969. Lightning fires in Saskatchewan grassland. The Canadian Field-Naturalist. 83: 317-324. [6266]
  • 61. Seklecki, Mariette T.; Grissino-Mayer, Henri D.; Swetnam, Thomas W. 1996. Fire history and the possible role of Apache-set fires in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona. In: Ffolliott, Peter F.; DeBano, Leonard F.; Baker, Malchus B., Jr.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Solis-Garza, Gilberto; Edminster, Carleton B.; Neary, Daniel G.; Allen, Larry S.; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. Effects of fire on Madrean Province ecosystems: a symposium proceedings; 1996 March 11-15; Tucson, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-GTR-289. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 238-246. [28082]
  • 67. Swetnam, Thomas W.; Baisan, Christopher H.; Brown, Peter M.; Caprio, Anthony C. 1989. Fire history of Rhyolite Canyon, Chiricahua National Monument. Tech. Rep. No. 32. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, School of Renewable Natural Resources; Cooperative National Park Resources Studies Unit. 47 p. [10573]
  • 68. Swetnam, Thomas W.; Baisan, Christopher H.; Caprio, Anthony C.; Brown, Peter M. 1992. Fire history in a Mexican oak-pine woodland and adjacent montane conifer gallery forest in southeastern Arizona. In: Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Bennett, Duane A.; Hernandez C., Victor Manuel; Ortega-Rubio, Alfred; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. Ecology and management of oak and associated woodlands: perspectives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico: Proceedings; 1992 April 27-30; Sierra Vista, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-218. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 165-173. [19759]
  • 69. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894]
  • 77. Whisenant, Steven G. 1990. Postfire population dynamics of Bromus japonicus. The American Midland Naturalist. 123: 301-308. [11150]
  • 81. 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]
  • 82. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]
  • 37. Keeley, Jon E. 1981. Reproductive cycles and FIRE REGIMES. In: Mooney, H. A.; Bonnicksen, T. M.; Christensen, N. L.; Lotan, J. E.; Reiners, W. A., tech. coords. FIRE REGIMES and ecosystem properties: Proceedings of the conference; 1978 December 11-15; Honolulu, HI. Gen. Tech. Rep. WO-26. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 231-277. [4395]

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Successional Status

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: succession

The concept of succession, in which community composition changes over time as a site is modified by past and present species, is not appropriate for southwestern desert ecosystem dynamics. Desert plants have a limited effect on soil development, and late-seral vegetation that is well adapted to dry, stressful environments reestablishes following removal of the existing vegetation [60]. In Arizona chaparral, secondary succession following fire does not produce species composition changes but is rather a gradual return to prefire species dominance [15].

Studies of succession in sacahuista habitats are generally lacking. However, some researchers have associated sacahuista habitats with disturbance. Southwestern desert grasslands, where sacahuista is often an associate, have been described as a "fire-caused subclimax" community [31,32]. The sacahuista-scrub oak (Q. turbinella) community is considered a "postclimax" type that results from heavy grazing and erosion in blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) grasslands [79].

  • 15. Carmichael, R. S.; Knipe, O. D.; Pase, C. P.; Brady, W. W. 1978. Arizona chaparral: plant associations and ecology. Res. Pap. RM-202. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 16 p. [3038]
  • 31. Humphrey, R. R. 1958. The desert grassland. Botanical Review. 24: 193-253. [36271]
  • 32. Humphrey, Robert R. 1958. The desert grassland: A history of vegetational change and an analysis of causes. Bull. 299. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 61 p. [5270]
  • 60. Rowlands, Peter G. 1980. Recovery, succession, and revegetation in the Mojave Desert. In: Rowlands, Peter G., ed. The effects of disturbance on desert soils, vegetation and community processes with emphasis on off road vehicles: a critical review. Special Publication. Riverside, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, Desert Plan Staff: 75-120. [20680]
  • 79. Whitfield, Charles J.; Anderson, Hugh L. 1938. Secondary succession in the desert plains grassland. Ecology. 19(2): 171-180. [5252]

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Regeneration Processes

More info for the terms: caudex, dioecious, perfect

Sacahuista reproduces sexually through seed production and asexually by sprouting. Current literature (2007), however, neither elucidates the factors important to successful sacahuista seedling establishment nor discusses vegetative regeneration in the absence of disturbance.

Pollination: Nolina (Nolina spp.) flowers are insect pollinated, likely by Hymenoptera and/or Diptera species [70].

Breeding system: Nolina plants are primarily dioecious, but perfect flowers may occur [70].

Seed dispersal: Fruit carpels are slightly inflated and likely easily dispersed by wind [70].

Seed production, seed banking, germination, and seedling establishment information was lacking as of the writing of this review (2007). The single mention of sacahuista seedlings came from an early postfire study where researchers did not locate sacahuista seedlings on 1- to 14-month-old burned sites in spite of an extensive search [69].

Vegetative regeneration: Sacahuista sprouts from the caudex following fire. Vegetative regeneration in the absence of other disturbance was not discussed in the available literature.

  • 69. Thomas, P. A.; Goodson, P. 1992. Conservation of succulents in desert grasslands managed by fire. Biological Conservation. 60(2): 91-100. [19894]
  • 70. Trelease, William. 1911. The desert group Nolineae. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. 50(200): 404-443. [65311]

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Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

More info on this topic.

More info for the term: chamaephyte

RAUNKIAER [57] LIFE FORM:
Chamaephyte
  • 57. 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 terms: forb, shrub

Shrub-forb

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Phenology

More info on this topic.

Sacahuista flowers in mid- to late spring (May-June) throughout its range [19,25,36].
  • 19. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]

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Flowering/Fruiting

Flowering mid--late spring.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Conservation

Conservation Status

Information on state-level protected status of plants in the United States is available at Plants Database.

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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

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G4 - Apparently Secure

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

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

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Status

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

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, UC Davis Arboretum, & Tucson NRCS Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Management

Management considerations

Sacahuista can be an indicator of range condition
in Arizona chaparral. Sacahuista stands with selectively browsed flower stalks
but without foliage browsed indicate a satisfactory range condition. Noticeably
hedged stands of sacahuista indicate an unsatisfactory range condition [22].
  • 22. Darrow, Robert A. 1944. Arizona range resources and their utilization: 1. Cochise County. In: Tech. Bull. 103. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station: 311-364. [4521]

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

These plant materials are readily available from commercial sources. 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.”

References

Dunmire, W.W. & G.D. Tierney 1995. Wild plants of the Pueblo Province: Exploring ancient and enduring uses. Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Rea, A.M. 1997. At the desert's green edge: An ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima. University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona.

Robinson, B. 1954. The basket weavers of Arizona. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Shreve, F. & I.L. Wiggins 1964. Vegetation and flora of the Sonoran Desert. Vol. I. Stanford University Press, Standford, California.

USDA, NRCS 2000. The PLANTS database. <http://plants.usda.gov>. 001206. National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Whiteford, A.H. 1988. Southwestern Indian baskets their history and their makers. School of American Research Press, Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, UC Davis Arboretum, & Tucson NRCS Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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If the plant begins to have an unkempt, matted appearance, prune it back in late winter or early spring after the danger of frost is past.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, UC Davis Arboretum, & Tucson NRCS Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Other uses and values

More info for the term: cover

Early southwestern inhabitants used sacahuista leaves to construct mats and baskets. Pueblo people of the Rio Grande valley constructed grain storage and washing baskets from sacahuista. Early people of southeastern New Mexico used sacahuista mats to cover their dead. Northeastern Yavapai used sacahuista to construct bed mats and to wrap foods for transport. Leaves were collected in bundles and typically worked with while still green [7]. Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache used sacahuista leaves to cover Parry's agave (Agave parryi) crowns while roasting and consumed emerging sacahuista flower stalks [16].

Sacahuista is still used today in weaving and in broom head construction [30]. Sacahuista is harvested by machete, taken to processing plants, and made into broom heads. Harvesting previously harvested stands is typically quicker and more fruitful, as there are fewer dead leaves and irregular-sized leaves. Ranchers typically encourage sacahuista harvesting on their land because new growth is considered more palatable. Harvesting sacahuista may also improve quail habitat and deer browse by removing dead plant material (Fitch, personal communication in [30]). Harvesting is illegal in some areas [49].

  • 7. Bell, Willis H.; Castetter, Edward F. 1941. Ethnobiological studies in the American Southwest. IV. The utilization of yucca, sotol, and beargrass by the aborigines in the American Southwest. University of New Mexico Bulletin. 5(5): 1-74. [38174]
  • 16. Castetter, Edward F.; Opler, M. E. 1936. Ethnobiological studies in the American Southwest. III. The ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache. University of New Mexico Bulletin. 4(5): 1-63. [38173]
  • 30. Huber, Dean W. 1992. Utilization of hardwoods, fuelwood, and special forest products in California, Arizona, and New Mexico. In: Ffolliott, Peter F.; Gottfried, Gerald J.; Bennett, Duane A.; Hernandez C., Victor Manuel; Ortega-Rubio, Alfred; Hamre, R. H., tech. coords. Ecology and management of oak and associated woodlands: perspectives in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico: Proceedings; 1992 April 27-30; Sierra Vista, AZ. Gen. Tech. Rep. RM-218. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 103-108. [19748]
  • 49. Nabhan, G. P.; Burns, B. T. 1985. Palmilla (Nolina) fiber: a native plant industry in arid and semi-arid U.S./Mexico borderlands. Journal of Arid Environments. 9: 97-103. [14227]

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Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

More info for the terms: cover, frequency

Sacahuista provides a food source for deer and small mammals and is important in a variety of wildlife habitats. Livestock utilization of sacahuista is rare.

In chaparral vegetation in central Arizona's Sierra Ancha Experimental Forest, 2 sacahuista plants, 1 outside and the other inside the exclosure, were marked and evaluated 7 years later. The plant outside the exclosure was closely browsed, but the grazing animal was not identified [54].

Livestock: Sacahuista is rarely browsed by domestic livestock. Some indicate that sacahuista leaves are browsed in times of drought and/or when other forage is unavailable [33,36]. Sacahuista stands that are heavily browsed are an indication that stocking rates are too high [22,33].

Sacahuista buds, blooms, and seeds are toxic to domestic sheep [56]. Cattle are considered less susceptible to poisoning. In Agua Prieta, Sonora, sacahuista leaves that remain after processing plants for use in brooms are fed to local cattle. In this area ranchers encourage sacahuista harvesting on their land, as it encourages new growth that is palatable to cattle [49].

Deer: Southwestern mule and white-tailed deer utilize sacahuista and sacahuista habitats. In the San Cayetano and Dos Cabezas mountains of southeastern Arizona, researchers found that sacahuista was important in the diets and habitats of white-tailed and mule deer. Regardless of season and climatic conditions, sacahuista was ranked 7th in the 7 most important mule and white-tailed deer foods in the area. Consumption of sacahuista flower stalks increased in a drought year [1,2].

Sacahuista sprouts and buds averaged 6% of the volume of 11 mule deer stomachs analyzed in late spring in south-central Arizona's Three Bar Wildlife Area. The greatest volume of sacahuista per sample was 32%. Sacahuista was not recovered from white-tailed deer stomachs or from either species in any other season. Sacahuista frequency ranged from 0 to 30% in the chaparral and desert zones of the study area. Researchers found that sacahuista leaves in the late spring had protein levels of just 4% [42,73].

Small mammals: In paloverde-prickly-pear (Cercidium-Opuntia spp.) vegetation in the Sugarloaf Mountain area of Arizona's Maricopa County, stomachs of 96 desert cottontails were analyzed. Sacahuista occurred with an average frequency of 10.3% in stomachs collected between March 1972 and June 1973 [71].

Birds: Sacahuista is important in quail and wild turkey habitats. Sacahuista was a dominant species in Montezuma quail habitats in the eastern foothills in the Santa Rita Mountains and Canelo Hills southeast of Tucson. However, sacahuista was not recovered from crops [9]. The Emory oak-sacahuista-sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) habitat in the Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico's Hidalgo County received use proportional to its availability by wild turkeys in the winter. Use was low in the spring, and 1 of 10 summer telemetry observations were made in this habitat [83].

Palatability/nutritional value: Dry weight composition of sacahuista collected in Arizona was 3.1% ash, 4.7% crude protein, 45% crude fiber, 2.2% fat, and 45% nitrogen-free extract [17]. Sacahuista leaves collected from Arizona chaparral in early May were 4% crude protein, 55% acid detergent fiber, 0.62% calcium, 0.16% phosphorus, and 26% invitro digestibility [74].

Cover value: Sacahuista is important in a variety of wildlife habitats and likely provides important cover for small mammal and bird species.

  • 33. Humphrey, Robert R. 1960. Forage production on Arizona ranges. V. Pima, Pinal and Santa Cruz Counties. Bulletin 502. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station. 137 p. [4520]
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 54. Pond, Floyd W. 1971. Chaparral: 47 years later. Res. Pap. RM-69. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 11 p. [1905]
  • 1. Anthony, Robert G. 1976. Influence of drought on diets and numbers of desert deer. Journal of Wildlife Management. 40(1): 140-144. [11558]
  • 2. Anthony, Robert G.; Smith, Norman S. 1977. Ecological relationships between mule deer and white-tailed deer in southeastern Arizona. Ecological Monographs. 47: 255-277. [9890]
  • 9. Bishop, Richard A.; Hungerford, Charles R. 1965. Seasonal food selection of Arizona Mearns quail. Journal of Wildlife Management. 29(4): 813-819. [22955]
  • 17. Catlin, C. N. 1925. Composition of Arizona forages, with comparative data. In: Bulletin 113. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station: 155-173. [4525]
  • 22. Darrow, Robert A. 1944. Arizona range resources and their utilization: 1. Cochise County. In: Tech. Bull. 103. Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, Agricultural Experiment Station: 311-364. [4521]
  • 42. McCulloch, Clay Y. 1973. Part I: Seasonal diets of mule and white-tailed deer. In: Deer nutrition in Arizona chaparral and desert habitats. Special Report No. 3: Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act Project W-78-R. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Research Division: 1-37. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. [9894]
  • 49. Nabhan, G. P.; Burns, B. T. 1985. Palmilla (Nolina) fiber: a native plant industry in arid and semi-arid U.S./Mexico borderlands. Journal of Arid Environments. 9: 97-103. [14227]
  • 56. Rankins, D. L., Jr.; Smith, G. S.; Ross, T. T.; Caton, J. S.; Miller, P. R.; Khan, M. F. 1988. Nolina microcarpa toxicosis in sheep. Proceedings, Western Section,, American Society of Animal Science. 39: 218-221. [14233]
  • 71. Turkowski, Frank J. 1975. Dietary adaptability of the desert cottontail. Journal of Wildlife Management. 39(4): 748-756. [19887]
  • 73. Urness, P. J.; McCulloch, C. Y. 1973. Part III: Nutritional value of seasonal deer diets. In: Deer nutrition in Arizona chaparral and desert habitats. Special Report No. 3: Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act Project W-78-R. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Research Division: 53-68. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. [12223]
  • 74. Urness, Philip J. 1973. Part II: Chemical analyses and in vitro digestibility of seasonal deer forages. In: Deer nutrition in Arizona chaparral and desert habitats. Special Report No. 3: Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act Project W-78-R. Phoenix, AZ: Arizona Game and Fish Department, Research Division: 39-52. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. [93]
  • 83. York, Darryl L.; Schemnitz, Sanford D. 2003. Home range, habitat use, and diet of Gould's turkeys, Peloncillo Mountains, New Mexico. The Southwestern Naturalist. 48(2): 231-240. [47383]

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Uses

Ethnobotanic: Beargrass formed the stuffing or warp of Papago coiled baskets. The blades were cut off near the ground and the saw-like edges are scraped away with a knife, split in two or more sections, and bundled and stored until used. Beargrass leaves were sometimes used in Jemez Pueblo ring baskets and they were the preferred materials for other southerly Rio Grande Pueblos earlier in this century. The Pima used beargrass in their baskets. They sun-dried the leaves and then split them into four, five or six strands before using them. These materials are still being gathered today and woven into baskets. The Isleta Pueblo in New Mexico ground beargrass seeds into flour for food. They also drank a tea of boiled beargrass roots as a cure for pneumonia and rheumatism.

Public Domain

USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center, UC Davis Arboretum, & Tucson NRCS Plant Materials Center

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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Notes

Comments

Nolina microcarpa in their flora of Texas; however, they reported that they had seen no specimen from that state, nor have I. This species is found primarily from western New Mexico through central Arizona. It forms large clumps up to 2 m in diameter and inflorescences that generally are exserted from the basal leaf rosettes. Considerable variation occurs, some of it geographically restricted to southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico. Most such plants from the latter areas have been referred to N. texana or N. caudata, but are here included in N. microcarpa. In the Grand Canyon area, there are variants that have been referred to N. parryi because in width the leaves approach those of N. parryi and they are serrulate. These plants, however, are acaulescent and also are here included in N. microcarpa. B. J. Albee et al. (1988) reported N. microcarpa on rocky slopes in canyons in Washington County, Utah, but the more recent online version of that work excludes it from Utah.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Missouri Botanical Garden, 4344 Shaw Boulevard, St. Louis, MO, 63110 USA

Source: Missouri Botanical Garden

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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Synonyms

Nolina caudata Trelease [25]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]

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The scientific name of

sacahuista is Nolina microcarpa S. Wats. (Liliaceae) [19,25,35,36,76].
  • 19. Cronquist, Arthur; Holmgren, Arthur H.; Holmgren, Noel H.; Reveal, James L.; Holmgren, Patricia K. 1977. Intermountain flora: Vascular plants of the Intermountain West, U.S.A. Vol. 6: The Monocotyledons. New York: Columbia University Press. 584 p. [719]
  • 36. Kearney, Thomas H.; Peebles, Robert H.; Howell, John Thomas; McClintock, Elizabeth. 1960. Arizona flora. 2nd ed. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. 1085 p. [6563]
  • 76. 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]
  • 25. Flora of North America Association. 2007. Flora of North America: The flora, [Online]. Flora of North America Association (Producer). Available: http://www.fna.org/FNA [2007, February 22]. [36990]
  • 35. Kartesz, John T.; Meacham, Christopher A. 1999. Synthesis of the North American flora (Windows Version 1.0), [CD-ROM]. In: North Carolina Botanical Garden (Producer). In cooperation with: The Nature Conservancy, Natural Resources Conservation Service, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. [36715]

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Common Names

sacahuista

beargrass

palmilla

smallseed sacahuista

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