spicata (L.) Greene
Distichlis stricta (Torr.)
low-growing sodgrass, 4 to 16 inches tall, with tough, scaly rhizomes
and rigid stems. It starts growth in the early summer, and has a
slow growth rate. It remains green until fall. Few seeds are produced;
reproduction is mostly from rhizomes.
dense panicle, yellowish at maturity; dioecious; male seedheads
larger, more dense, and on longer culms; spikelets flattened, awnless,
produces 8 to 15 florets.
hairy; blades stiff, flattened at base, sharp pointed, coarse, spaced
along the entire length of the stem; sheaths overlap; leaves folded
in the bud; collar hairy; ligule has a fringe of short hairs; auricles
grows from the low valley bottoms to the middle sagebrush grass
zone. It is most common in wetlands associated with broad, flat
valleys and basins, in swales, on the margisn of ponds, lakes and
reservoirs, and in seepage areas. In Utah, it can be seen in many
river bottoms as a rather solid, yellowish-green colored sod. The
elevation range is between 2500 and 6000 feet, and rainfall from
8 to 14 inches. It is quite resistant to fire and trampling.
Saltgrass has several adaptations to its habitat. Salt glands on
the leaves extrude salt, allowing the plants to utilize salty water.
It can survive flooding and heavy saturated soils if the leaves
are exposed to air, allowing air to be moved from the leaves to
the roots through a series of interconnected passages. The sharp-pointed
scaly rhizomes effectively push through heavy clay soils, allowing
saltgrass to colonize areas less favorable for seedling establishment.
Soils: It occupies primarily extremely
salty and alkaline soils that are poorly drained and have a high
sacaton, greasewood, and
is of low palatability for livestock and big game, receiving use
only after other forages have cured in the late summer. If grazed
alone in the fall or winter, saltgrass can cause rumen compaction
in cattle. Saltgrass can provide important benefits in livestock
management. It is one of the most resistant grasses to trampling
and grazing, providing soil stabilization in areas of trailing and
water developments. Care should be taken because it may aggressively
increase when competition with other plants is reduced or lacking.
Small mammals and birds use saltgrass for cover, nesting, as well
as eating the rootstocks and seeds.
It is very tenacious as a soil erosion control plant, but is usually
not found where erosion is a problem. It also has some value in
slowing the overland flow of water and reducing the salinization
of fresh water streams.
Native Americans in Nevada and Utah used saltgrass as a cereal crop.