Cheatgrass Facts

Cheatgrass Facts
Cheatgrass, also known as downy brome, is herbaceous plant that belongs to the grass family. It originates from southern Europe, southwestern parts of Asia and northern Africa, but it can be found around the world today. Cheatgrass can be found in the prairies, pastures, fields, foothills, areas near the roads and in the wastelands. It usually grows on the soil of coarse texture, exposed to direct sunlight. Cheatgrass tolerates drought, but it requires moisture for the successful growth and development. Cheatgrass is highly invasive. After accidental introduction into North America in the 19th century, cheatgrass managed to conquer all countries in the USA and occupy more than million acres of land. Cheatgrass is classified as noxious weed in all countries outside its native range.
Interesting Cheatgrass Facts:
Cheatgrass has smooth, multi-branched stem that can reach 3 to 30 inches in height.
Cheatgrass often produces dense monocultures (large areas covered with single plant species), with around 10.000 plants per square yard.
Cheatgrass has shallow, fibrous root.
Cheatgrass develops thin and hairy leaves. Young leaves are dark green colored. They become flattened and purplish colored when plant reach maturity.
Flower heads of cheatgrass are composed of numerous small flowers on top of a drooping stem. Flowers are arranged in the form of panicle (multi-branched inflorescence) composed of numerous spikelets (secondary spikes, made of few florets). Flower heads are slender, reddish-brown colored and 2 to 6 inches long.
Flowers of cheatgrass are self-fertile (able to perform self-pollination). They can be also pollinated by wind.
Each plant produces around 300 seed that are narrow and fluffy.
Cheatgrass is known as winter annual plant, because it germinates from fall to winter. It reaches maturity during the spring and dies in summer.
Cheatgrass propagates via seed. Seed retains ability to germinate 2 to 5 years.
Wedge-shaped awns (part of seed heads) attach to the skin and fur of cattle and animals that are passing near the cheatgrass and facilitate dispersal of seed in the wild. Wind and water also play role in dispersal of seed.
Deer, antelope and cattle graze cheatgrass while it is still young and green (during the spring), while birds eat seed and seedlings during the autumn. Forage capacity of cheatgrass decreases when plant starts to bloom.
Cheatgrass is highly flammable. Piles of dry cheatgrass are extremely hazardous for the wildlife because they easily catch and spread fire in the wild (fire can travel at speed of 4 miles per hour in windy areas).
Land covered with cheatgrass is prone to erosion after the fire.
People use various chemical (herbicides), mechanical (removal of plants from the soil) and biological (grazing) methods to eradicate cheatgrass from the occupied areas.
Cheatgrass completes its life cycle in one year (annual plant).

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