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Image of prairie cordgrass

Prairie Cordgrass

Spartina pectinata

Common Names

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prairie cordgrass
tall marshgrass
sloughgrass
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Conservation Status

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Prairie cordgrass is listed as imperiled in the state of Washington [35].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Cover Value

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More info for the term: cover

Prairie cordgrass forms thick stands around marshes, providing good
cover for game and song birds and small mammals [22,28]. It also
provides shade and hiding cover for larger wildlife [12].

The degree to which prairie cordgrass provides environmental protection
during one or more seasons for wildlife species is as follows [7,22]:

CO MT ND UT WY
Elk ---- Poor ---- Poor Poor
Mule deer ---- Fair Good Poor Fair
White-tailed deer ---- Good Good ---- Fair
Small mammals Good Good Good Fair Good
Small nongame birds Good Good Good Fair Good
Upland game birds Good Good Good Fair Good
Waterfowl Good Good Good ---- Good
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Description

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More info for the term: warm-season

Prairie cordgrass is a warm-season, native, sod-forming grass. Culms
reach heights of 3.5 to 10 feet (1-3 m) and are firm or wiry. Spikes
are mostly 10 to 20 per plant and are 1.5 to 3 inches (4-8 cm) long.
The root system has coarse, woody, highly branched rhizomes. The roots
grow from the rhizomes and the base of the clumps and penetrate almost
vertically downward to depths of 8 to 13 feet (2.4-3.3 m) [13,14,30].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Distribution

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Prairie cordgrass is found from Newfoundland and Quebec to eastern
Washington and Oregon, and south to North Carolina, Arkansas, Texas, New
Mexico, and Mexico [13,14].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Fire Ecology

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More info for the terms: fire regime, litter, shrubs

Prairie cordgrass has deep rhizomes which allow it to survive fires.
Survival is increased if burns occur during wet seasons because of water
present on the soil surface. Fires occurring in dry stands of this
grass are hot enough to kill any trees or shrubs which have invaded the
area [32]. A fire hazard results when litter of this species is allowed
to accumulate.

FIRE REGIMES :
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this
species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under
"Find FIRE REGIMES".
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Fire Management Considerations

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More info for the term: litter

Prescribed burning of prairie cordgrass should be considered to minimize
the fire hazard resulting from litter accumulation [32]. Burning should
be conducted when plants are dormant to ensure minimal damage.
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)

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More info for the term: geophyte

Geophyte
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat characteristics

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More info for the term: facultative wetland species

Prairie cordgrass is the most abundant grass of low floodplains and
wetlands in Indiana. It is a facultative wetland species, meaning it is
usually found in wetlands (67 to 99 percent of the time) but is
occasionally found in nonwetlands. It occurs on most soil textures from
fine clays to silt loams and is somewhat tolerant of alkaline
conditions. It is tolerant of high water tables but intolerant of
prolonged flooding [12].

Prairie cordgrass grows on wet banks of sluggish streams and around
ponds. On its hydric side it is bordered by tall rushes (Scirpus spp.),
sedges (Carex spp.), and reed grasses (Phragmites spp.). On the dry
side, there is usually a band of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) and
Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis) between prairie cordgrass and big
bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), which dominates the next dryer zone [32].

Prairie cordgrass grows on sites ranging in elevation from 2,100 to
4,000 feet (640 to 1,219 m) in Montana, 4,100 to 6,100 feet (1,250 to
1,859 m) in Wyoming, and 3,500 to 7,000 feet (1,067 to 2,134 m) in
Colorado [7].

Sites where prairie cordgrass has been reported include: lower, poorly
drained soils and alkaline fens of moraines, till plains, and
floodplains [3,31], pothole borders [4], and around prairie marshes and
along drainage ways through the tall and mixed-grass prairies [9,15,25].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Cover Types

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

42 Bur oak
242 Mesquite
237 Interior ponderosa pine
239 Pinyon juniper
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Ecosystem

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

FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES35 Pinyon - juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES41 Wet grasslands
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Habitat: Plant Associations

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

More info for the terms: forest, woodland

K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush - greasewood
K049 Tule marshes
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass - needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta - threeawn shrubsteppe
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass
K065 Grama - buffalograss
K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass
K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie
K081 Oak savanna
K098 Northern floodplain forest
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Immediate Effect of Fire

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More info for the term: litter

All aboveground standing vegetation and litter will be consumed by fire.
license
cc-publicdomain
bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Importance to Livestock and Wildlife

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More info for the term: litter

Prairie cordgrass provides fair to poor forage for livestock and
wildlife. It is seldom grazed because of the large amount of standing
litter produced and the boggy areas in which it grows. If grazed, it is
usually during the spring before the stems become coarse and woody [28],
or in the fall after other forage has dried [12].
license
cc-publicdomain
bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Key Plant Community Associations

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More info for the term: codominant

Prairie cordgrass is codominant with bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis
canadensis) on wet prairies and alkaline fens in Indiana. The wet
prairie is highly productive for agriculture, and remnants are uncommon
today. Alkaline fens are more common on the eastern prairies of Ohio
and Indiana than on prairies to the west [3].

Published classifications listing prairie cordgrass occurs as a dominant
or subdominant are presented below:

Riparian dominance types of Montana [12]
Classification of native vegetation at the Woodworth Station, North
Dakota [19]
Classification and environmental relationships of wetland vegetation in
central Yellowstone Park, Wyoming [33]
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Life Form

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More info for the term: graminoid

Graminoid
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Management considerations

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Prairie cordgrass has a high grazing resistance, but decreases with
intensive use [20,25,26,28]. Prairie cordgrass increased in biomass
following late autumn grazing at a moderate stocking rate (1.13 acres
per AUM [0.46 ha per AUM]) in Colorado [23].

Prairie cordgrass is often cut for hay before it becomes coarse.
Cutting two or three times a year prevents coarseness. Production has
been as much as 3 to 5 tons per acre (3.08 to 5.14 kg/ha). Mowing is
not always feasible because high water tables may prevent the use of
equipment. Smooth leaves make the hay difficult to handle, causing it
to slip easily off the hayrack or haystack [32].
license
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Nutritional Value

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Prairie cordgrass is low in nutritive value [28]. Energy value is fair
and protein value is poor [7].
license
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Occurrence in North America

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AL AR CO CT DE ID IL IN IA KS
KY ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE
NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA
RI SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI
WY AB BC MB NB NE NS ON PQ SK
MEXICO
license
cc-publicdomain
bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Other uses and values

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Native Americans used prairie cordgrass for thatching lodges. Pioneers
used it for thatching roofs and covering haystacks [29].
license
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Palatability

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Early spring growth is the most palatable [28]. The degree of use shown
by livestock and wildlife species for prairie cordgrass in several
western states has been rated as follows [7,22]:

CO MT ND UT WY
Cattle Fair Good Fair Poor Good
Sheep Fair Fair Poor Poor Fair
Horses Fair Fair Fair Poor Good
Pronghorn ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
Elk ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
Mule deer ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
White-tailed deer ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
Small mammals ---- Fair Poor Fair Poor
Small nongame birds ---- Fair Poor Poor Poor
Upland game birds ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
Waterfowl ---- Poor Poor Poor Poor
license
cc-publicdomain
bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Phenology

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Although prairie cordgrass renews growth rather late, it grows more
rapidly than any of the grasses of the prairie. By early June in
Missouri, plants are in the fifth or sixth leaf stage and 2 to 3 feet
(0.6-0.9 m) tall. Plants are at least 2 years old before flowering
stalks appear [29]. Flowering generally occurs from June to October,
with most occurring from August to September [14]. Maximum flowering in
Missouri occurs during mid-August [32].
license
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Plant Response to Fire

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More info for the terms: cover, fuel

Reports of prairie cordgrass response to fire are limited and variable.
Cover of prairie cordgrass decreased 1 year following a May 26 burn in
North Dakota [17]. Specific fire information was not reported.
However, 4 years of annual burns in southwestern Minnesota occurring
from mid to late April caused an increase in cover [1]. These fires
generally had low to moderate intensities with the exception of the
first year when high fuel levels were present.
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Post-fire Regeneration

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More info for the terms: herb, rhizome

Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Regeneration Processes

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More info for the term: cover

Prairie cordgrass reproduces by both sexual and vegetative means. Most
reproduction is vegetative; seedlings are shade-intolerant and only
establish in bare areas [29].

Vegetative: Rhizomes form an open network in part or all of the first
foot of soil [30]. Reproduction from rhizomes produces a complete
cover, and in dense stands, almost no other plants are found [32].

Seed: Seeds germinate readily in wet soil, and seedlings develop
rapidly [29]. Varying germination results have been reported. Two
greenhouse studies, both with optimum germination temperatures (86
degrees F [30 deg C] day, 68 degrees F [20 deg C] night), reported
germinations of 70 to 91 percent [8] and 41 percent [24]. Seedling
survival was high after 4 weeks of moisture stress conditions, although
a reduction in growth rates did occur [8].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

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):

1 Northern Pacific Border
5 Columbia Plateau
10 Wyoming Basin
12 Colorado Plateau
13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont
14 Great Plains
15 Black Hills Uplift
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Successional Status

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More info for the term: mesic

Prairie cordgrass forms stable communities on mesic sites, but as
conditions become dry it is eventually replaced by big bluestem. It is
dominant over extensive areas because of its height and often forms
monocultures by means of its rhizomes [29].
license
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Synonyms

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Spartina michauxiana A.S. Hitchc.
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Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Taxonomy

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The currently accepted scientific name for prairie cordgrass is Spartina
pectinata Link. (Graminiae - Tribe Chlorideae). There are no infrataxa
[13,14].
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bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/

Value for rehabilitation of disturbed sites

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Prairie cordgrass has great ability to stabilize soil and prevent water
erosion. Steep streambanks lined with prairie cordgrass allow little if
any soil to be removed, even when streams run bank full during heavy
rains. Prairie cordgrass has been useful for preventing erosion on
earthfill dams, spillways, and drainage channels [20]. Moderate soil
deposits will injure this grass much less than other species. Sharp
points on the shoots allow them to push their way through a foot of sand
or silt [32].
license
cc-publicdomain
bibliographic citation
Walkup, C. J. 1991. Spartina pectinata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/