Sporobolus contractus A.S. Hitchc.
Scientific Name Synonyms:
Sporobolus cryptandrus (Torr.) A. Gray var. strictus Scribn.
Life Span: Perennial
Growth Characteristics: Spike dropseed is a grass with solitary or densely tufted, erect stems growing up to 35” tall. It begins growth with summer moisture and matures in October. It reproduces by seed and tillers.
Seedhead: Its seedhead is a spikelike panicle 6-14” long and up to 1/2 inch wide. The seedhead typically remains partly within the sheath. Spikelets contain 1 floret and are small. The glumes are rough, thin, sharp and unequal in length. The first glume is half as long as the second glume which is slightly shorter to barely longer than the lemma. Lemmas are1/8 inch long.
Leaves: Leaf blades are smooth, up to ½ inch wide and around 14” long. They are flat when the plant is green, and can become V-shaped when the plant is drying,. Ligules are a dense ring of very short hairs. Leaf sheaths are hairy along the margin.
Spike dropseed occurs primarily in Southern Utah in desert shrub-grass and pinyon-juniper communities below 6,400’ elevation where annual precipitation is 7-12” annually and a substantial portion is received as summer rain.
Soils: It is adapted to dry, mostly sandy soils that are periodically moist. It is somewhat tolerant of salinity.
Associated Species: Associated species include Indian ricegrass, giant dropseed, sand dropseed, mesa dropseed, Mormon tea, indigobush, purple sage, rough mulesears, blackbrush, sand sagebrush, pinyon, and juniper.
Uses and Management:
Spike dropseed is effective at dune stabilization in low rainfall areas. It provides forage for cattle and horses on desert areas primarily used as winter range. Its mature foliage is rather coarse.