Native grasses and closely related introduced species are used primarily for reseeding severly eroded sites, abandoned lands, rangelands, droughty soils, and other areas where more common cultivated grasses often fail. Improved cultivars of many native grasses are available.
Management and cultural practices have not been completely developed for many native grasses. Native grass seed is often low in both germination and purity, consequently may be very low in pure live seed percentage.
BIG BLUESTEM (Andropogon gerardi): A warm season grass which may grow taller than 6 feet. Has strong, deep roots and short underground stems which provide a sod highly resistant to erosion. Adapted to and found on moist, well drained soils of central states and the eastern edge of the Great Plains. Produces good quality hay and pasture in the earlier stages of growth.
LITTLE BLUESTEM (Andropogon scorparius): More drought resistant than big bluestem, little bluestem grows from 2 to 4 feet tall. The major distribution area is the more western and drier areas of the Great Plains. It is adapted to and found on gravelly soils and exposed areas, and the flint hills of Kansas ans Oklahoma. Can be low in palatability. Seed harvest is difficult
SAND BLUESTEM (Andropogon hallii): A vigorous, warm season perennial grass with creeping underground stems. Grows on deep, sandy soils of the Great Plains, primarily from Nebraska to Texas. Similar to big bluestem, but seed heads are noticeably hairy.
The gramas are warm season grasses which are of major importance in the Great Plains.
SIDEOATS GRAMS (Boueloua curtipendula): Generally a bunchgrass type, occasionally a may form a sod. It usually grows less than 3 feet in height. The long flower stalks with short, dangling purplish spokes are readily recognized. It is adapted to more most areas of the Great Plains, primarily from central Nebraska to central Texas. It is palatable to all classes of livestock.
BLUE GRAMA (Bouteloua gracilis): Found in the short grass prairie, blue grama is smaller, finer, and more drought resistant than Sideoats grama. It has no stolons but does have a dense, heavy root system. Found in the drier areas of the Great Plains. It is highly palatable, retains feeding value into winter months, but grows to only 6 to 12 inches in height which limits production. It is adapted to land which cannot be plowed, and will withstand more drought and alkali than Sideoats grama.
BUFFALOGRASS (Buchloe dactyloides): A low growing perennial which spreads by stolons and can regenerate from dormant seeds. It grows from 2 to 6 inches in height. It is adapted to soils high in clay, occurs primarily in the central and southern Great Plains. Drought resistant, tolerant of alkali soils, but will not grow well on sandy soils. Will be replaced by taller grasses on deep, moist soils. In summer months is highly palatable and nutritious, it retains feeding value in winter months.
Lovegrasses have the ability to grow on sandy or low fertility soils.
SAND LOVEGRASS (Eragrostis trichodes): Native to the central and southern Great Plains, Sand Lovegrass is an erect perennial bunchgrass, growing to about 3 feet. Hgihly palatable, it produces good yields from spring to late October.
WEEPING LOVEGRASS (Eragrostis curvula): An introduced species, it has been used extensively for erosion control and forage on low fertility soils in Oklahoma,. It is a perennial bunchgrass with a shallow and extensive root system. It can grow to 4 feet. Palatability is not high except during lush spring growth period.
BOER LOVEGRASS (Eragrostis chloromelas): A long lived perennial bunchgrass which is less winter hardy than weeping lovegrass.
LEHMANN LOVEGRASS (Eragrostis lehmanniana): A perennial grass with rhizomes or stolons which root and produce new plants at the nodes. The least winter hardy of the three introduced Lovegrasses.
SWITCHGRASS (Panicum virgatum): A tall perennial sod forming grass which grows in most of the U.S. east of the Rocky Mountains. It is of use primarily in the Great Plains. It is a coarse stemmed, broad leaved grass which grows from 3 to 4.5 feet in height. Best adapted to fertile, moist soils. It is a summer grass, has vigorous seedling growth and high forage yields, is used widely for hay, summer pasture, and erosion control. Several cultivars are available for seeding in the plains states.
BLUE PANICGRASS (Panicum antidotale): A tall growing, vigorous, coarse introduced grass like Switchgrass, taller, roots at the nodes of the stolons, and is adapted to hot summers and mild winters.
Dropseeds are invader grasses which grow under unfavorable conditions for other grasses. When found on the range, they indicate overgrazing, drought, or unfavorable soil conditions.
SAND DROPSEED (Sporobolus cryptandrus): Occurs on sandy soils primarily in the Great Plains and the Southwest. Valuable in mixtures until other slow developing native grasses will establish and compete.
GIANT DROPSEED (Sporobolus giganteus): Resembles a giant form of sand dropseed. This is a tall, vigorous grass.
TALL DROPSEED (Sporobolus asper): Commonly found on the prairies, tall dropseed may be found in mixtures in bluestem seed.
ALKALI SACATON (Sporobolus airoides): A tall, coarse, native perennial bunchgrass found on alkali soils and flood plains of the Southwest to Canada. Also grows on rocky and open plains. Palatable only when green and tender, more palatable than Sacaton. Could become an important cultivated grass.
Seed count: 1,750,000 seeds per pound
Minimum effective annual precipitation: 12 inches
SACATON (Sporobolus wrightii): A warm season, coarse, tall bunchgrass similar to Alkali sacaton, but less palatable even when green. Grows under the same conditions as Alkali sacaton.
Seed count: 1,960,000 to 1,970,000 seeds per pound
ALKALI GRASS, LEMMONS (Puccinellia lemmoni): Cool season perennial grass native to the western U.S.; adapted to moist, alkaline soils.
ALKALI GRASS, NUTTALL (Puccinellia distans) or (Puccinellia nuttalliana): Cool season, perennial grass, native to northern states and the southwest. Tolerant of alkaline soils.
Seed count: 2,100,000 to 2,110,000 seeds per pound
Closely related to the wheatgrass, the wildrye grasses are often confused with the ryegrasses, which are not related.
RUSSIAN WILDRYE (Elymus junceus): This is a drought resistant, bunch type, cool season grass adapted to the northern Great Plains and the nearby provinces of Canada. It is reported to be one of the best cool season grasses for supplementing warm season grasses. In digestion trials in Montana, Russian Wildrye compared favorably with other grasses.
CANADA WILDRYE (Elymus canadensis): This is a large, coarse, short lived cool season perennial bunchgrass which begins growth later in the spring and lasts longer into the summer months than crested wheatgrass and smooth bromegrass. Seedlings are vigorous and establish readily. Palatability is not particularly high, but when harvested in the boot stage it produces good hay. It is widely distributed in the United States.
GIANT WILDRYE (Elymus condensatus): A coarse, strong perennial bunchgrass with short, thick root stalks. Grows in the Western U.S., abundant growth on moist or wet saline soils. It will grow on moderately dry fertile soils. Grazed readily while young, the foliage later becomes coarse and harsh. It can provide winter feed for cattle and horses if left standing. The largest of the native wildryes, it can grow to 10 feet.
BLUE WILDRYE (Elymus glaucus): A short lived bunchgrass resembling slender wheatgrass in areas of adaptation and use. It is commonly found on burned over and cut over lands in the Pacific Northwest. This shade tolerant grass grows to 3 or 3.5 feet in height.
BASIN WILDRYE (Elymus cinereus): Basin wildrye is a tall, long lived, and coarse perennial grass with short rhizomes. It is adapted to wet, alkaline soils. The tall growth, from 5.5 to 9 feet, is usually available for feed, even in deep snow cover.
BEARDLESS WILDRYE (Elymus triticoises): Not as tall as Basin wildrye, this grass spreads vigorously by rhizomes. It is a good range feed, especially on alkaline soils. While related to Basin wildrye, it is often confused with western wheatgrass.
DUNE WILDRYE (Elymus mollis):
MAMMOTH WILDRYE - SIBERIAN WILDRYE (Elymus giganteus)
YELLOW WILDRYE (Elymus flavescens):These three have little value for the forage; they are used in the stabilization of inland sand dunes.
Many needlegrasses are found in the arid rangelands of the West. They are named for the needle like seeds they produce.
GREEN NEEDLEGRASS (Stipa viridula): The most important of the needlegrasses, this perennial bunchgrass grows form 1.5 to 5 feet tall. It is found in the native prairies of the Northern Great Plains. The awns of the seeds are not injurious to livestock.
NEEDLE AND THREAD (Stipa comata): One of the more common needlegrasses, the seed of this species is sharp pointed and can injure livestock. It is found on arid rangelands of the west.
SLEEPYGRASS (Stipa robusta): This grass lives up to its name as it is sometimes has a narcotic effect on grazing horses.
PORCUPINEGRASS (Stipa partea): Found from Pennsylvania to Colorado and Montana, this grass is readily grazed, but the sharp pointed seed can be injurious to livestock.