weedy annual grass, 2 inches to 2 feet tall. Has a branched base
and is typically rusty-red to purple at maturity. Seeds germinate
in the late fall or early spring. Has rapid spring growth, with
seeds maturing within 2 months of beginning growth. Reproduces from
seeds. An aggressive weed.
Seedhead:Open, drooping, much branched
panicle; spikelets contain 5 to 8 florets; glumes and lemmas pubescent
or downy; lemmas narrow with awns 5/8 inch long or longer.
Leaves: Pubescent blades and sheaths; blades
flat, 1/8 inch to ¼ inch wide; leaves rolled in the bud;
ligules 1/16 to 1/8 inch long, membranous, rounded to collar shaped,
with long pointed teeth; auricles absent.
is widely adapted. It grows on all exposures and all types of topography
from desert valley bottoms to the tops of the highest mountain peaks,
2,500 to 13,000 feet in elevation. It invades heavily grazed rangeland,
roadsides, waste places, burned areas, and disturbed sites quickly.
Soils: It is adapted to all kind of
soils except the extremely wet or extremely saline alkali and thrives
where there is only weak competition from perennial native or introduced
is an invader plant in all Utah range sites, and is therefore associated
with hundreds of other plant species.
quality and yields vary drastically. It has a very short growing
period during which the forage varies from poor to fair. It is fair
to good for livestock before the inflorescence emerges, then has
little value, except for watershed protection. Seedheads have awns
that may injure eyes and mouth of grazing animals and contaminate
fleece. Deer and pronghorn graze it in the spring while it is actively
growing. It furnishes some food for upland birds and rodents. Chukars
as well as partridges are uniquely adapted to cheatgrass infested
range where it provides food and cover. Canada geese also use it
heavily for feed in the fall immediately after it germinates. Seed
is also used by mourning dove and other upland game birds.
Management should be aimed at replacing cheatgrass with a perennial
plant cover. This involves releasing grazing pressure during the
flower and seed formation stages of the desirable plants. Fire return
intervals should also be lengthened to help perennial vegetation
recover. The best management has been to ensure perennial herbaceous
plants are managed to dominate the site. Avoid burns, especially
in the spring and summer periods, when explosive cheatgrass fires
are most dangerous to life and property and injurious to the perennial