Mesa dropseed

(Sporobolus flexuosus (Thurb. ex Vasey) Rydb.)




Synonyms
Vilfa cryptandra var. flexuosa Thurb. ex Vasey; Sporobolus cryptandrus var. flexuosus (Thurb. ex Vasey) Thurb.
Description
Mesa dropseed culms are 2-4 ft tall, tufted, erect or spreading, freely branching, and leafy. The uppermost leaf blades and those of the branches mostly 3-5" long, the others about a foot long. The ligule is a ring of coarse hairs. The panicle of mesa dropseed is oblong or narrowly pyramidal and can be as long as 30"though usually less than half that. Its flexuous, purple branches taper from as wide as six inches below to as little as one inch at the top. The spikelets (on short, spreading branchlets) are attached by threadlike pedicels. (The panicles easily tangle with other panicles.) In comparison to sand dropseed its panicle is always open and its branches somewhat drooping.
Distribution and habitat
Mesa dropseed grows on mesas(!), sand dunes or very sandy or rocky soil. It flowers from June to September.
General information
Cattle eat mesa dropseed all year long although it does not provide much forage in the early spring, because the first leaves are short and protected by the culms of previous years. It also becomes unpalatable and low in nutrition at maturity. Mesa dr opseed can withstand heavier defoliation prior to flowering than during the rest of the growing season. If it is being continuously grazed, intensity should be less than 65% during the growing season. Mesa dropseed survives long droughts with grazing and can reduce grazing stress on black grama during the growing season. Adjusting grazing regimes to the amount and timing of rainfall can prevent overgrazing of mesa dropseed. Mesa dropseed is important in depleted stands of black grama. It stabilizes the lo ose, sandy soils giving the slower-growing black grama time to revegetate.