Western wheatgrass

(Pascopyrum smithii)




Synonyms
Elymus smithii (Rydb.) Gould; Agropyron smithii Rydb.
Description
Western wheatgrass is a moderately coarse, perennial sodgrass 1 to 2 feet tall, spreading by underground rhizomes. Its leaves are blue-green when growing, curing to a washed-out straw color. The leaves are from four to twelve inches long, 3/16 to 1? i nch wide, ridged lengthwise on the upper surface, firm, tapering to a slender point. Dense, narrow, unbranched spikes 2 to 6 inches long carry one or two spikelets per node that are up to an inch long with from 5 to 12 florets each.
Distribution and habitat
Western wheatgrass is found on dry sage deserts and foothills, moist open ground, and open pine forests in Navajo and Coconino counties from 3,000 to 7,000 feet. The grass is adapted to a variety of soil conditions but makes its best growth on heavy s oils where an adequate supply of moisture is available. It is tolerant of moderately alkaline soils.
General information
When western wheatgrass is green it is highly palatable for all classes of livestock. The plants start growth early in the spring, are largely dormant in the dry period before the summer rains, and then resume growth when the rains have wet the soil. During years with early fall rains the plants may produce additional feed before winter. When cut during the late bloom to early-dough stage western wheatgrass makes very good hay. The stems are rather coarse but the protein content is high and cattle and horses eat the hay readily. Care should be taken not to graze western wheatgrass too closely. Heavy grazing reduces the forage yield and may result in death of some of the plants. In order to maintain or increase the stand of this grass, it should be gra zed lightly during the spring months.