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A tough, spreading perennial, this grass grew across much of the Great Plains and nourished (with other prairie grasses such as grama grass and bluestem) millions of bison. Today it is valued and encouraged by ranchers on the rangelands of the arid West. To aid the ranchers, researchers have introduced cultivars such as ‘Arriba‘ that are more productive for forage and hay than the parent plant.
The range of western wheatgrass today is vast--all of North America except the humid Southeast, the Atlantic States, and the Far North.
Western wheatgrass is rhizomatous, that is, it spreads by running roots that turn upward at their tips and start new plants that in turn spread by roots. Where it has good conditions, or is encouraged, it forms dense stands that cover acres of ground with few other plant species present.
In such stands, the roots from a sod, a thick, tangled mat in the top layer of the ground. The early settlers of the prairies, cut and dried the sod to make building blocks for their first shelters and tried with little success to make gardens in the sod. Later, the steel plow invented by John Deere cut the sod in furrows and turned it upside down, permitting the settlers to grow crops.
The leaves of western wheatgrass are narrow and upright and often have a notable blue tint. The seedstalks are only a bit taller than the leaves and bear the seeds in a long, narrow cluster, one reason for the common name “wheatgrass.” It is the state grass of North Dakota and South Dakota.
The National Phenology Network (USA-NPN) is devoted to recruiting and aiding volunteers who observe the timing of events in the lifecycles of plants and animal across North America. USA-NPN has designated twenty plants, including Western wheatgrass, as a “calibration” species because they are widespread and therefore available to many observers. Among the events recorded are first sign of green in spring, first full sized leaf, first flower and first mature seeds.
The data that USA-NPN collects is building a record that will be valuable to researchers studying the effect of climate changes, global warming, allergy seasons and more. Some day we gardeners will also use the data to time our work in the garden by phenology. This is a great project for all of us at YourGardenShow.com. We may learn, as our forebears did, to plant corn when oak leaves are size of a mouse’s ear.
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Plant Photo Tagging allows you to turn any garden photo into a rich tapestry of what you have planted. It’s fun, informative, and helpful to others visiting your garden. As you photo tag, you can easily add plant names from our database and/or make notes about anything you’d like. To get started, sign-in and go to your Garden.
Click on any image in your garden's slideshow Carousel to get to full-view mode. Click on the “Tag” icon just below your photo and you are ready to tag! Simply click and drag your mouse over a plant or area you’d like to highlight or tag. A pop-up box will appear and ask for either a plant name or a note - add one or both, then click “tag” and you’ve just tagged your garden!
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