Bottlebrush squirreltail

(Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey)

Sitanion elymoides Raf.; Sitanion hystrix
Bottlebrush squirreltail is a cool season perennial, moderately clumped, without rhizomes, mostly 8 to 25 inches tall. Its leaf blades, up to 3/16 inch wide, are usually rather stiff, inrolled, and either smooth or softly pubescent. The spikes of the inflorescence are mostly 2 to 4 inches long, bristly with long spreading awns and often partially enclosed in the upper part of the sheath. Within the spike the rachis nodes are at most 1/3 of an inch apart usually carrying two spikelets. When the grass d ries the rachis breaks into fragments, and the spikelets drop off from above the glumes to be blown by the wind over large areas.
Distribution and habitat
Bottlebrush squirreltail is widespread on open, rocky slopes, dry hills, sandy soils and woodlands up to 11,000 feet. It does not form complete stands, but rather is scattered about the plant community. It flowers from late May to August.
General information
Bottlebrush squirreltail is a very palatable winter forage for domestic sheep where the foliage remains green throughout the winter (as in the Great Basin). Overall, bottlebrush squirreltail is considered moderately palatable to livestock. When the lo ng sharp awns of bottlebrush squirreltail are present, they greatly reduce its palatability. The mature awns may penetrate flesh around the mouth of grazing animals. Bottlebrush squirreltail production is greatest under light and moderate grazing, althoug h it can be heavily grazed in the ponderosa pine regions of the Coconino Plateau, since its long, sharp awns are usually present to discourage grazing. Heavy trampling destroys germination sites and reduces germination, whereas moderate trampling may enha nce germination.