©Intermountain Herbarium

Common Name(s):

Curly Grass

Scientific Name:

Pleuraphis jamesii Torr.

Scientific Name Synonyms:

Hilaria jamesii (Torr.) Benth.




Life Span: Perennial

Origin: Native

Season: Warm

Growth Characteristics: A low growing (3 to 20 inches tall), rather coarse grass, with coarse rhizomes, growing as an open sod or in small bunches; stems solid, hairy at nodes. It grows mainly in summer after sufficient rain, but can also grow and flower in the spring. It reproduces from rhizomes and seeds, and may occur in nearly pure or scattered stands.

Seedhead: Erect, purplish to straw-colored spike, 1 ½ to 3 inches long, with 3 spikelets per rachis joint; spikelet clusters fall as a group when mature, leaving a persistent zigzag seed stalk. Spikelets alternate; about ¼ inch long, chaffy, clustered, and hairy at base.

Leaves: Blades narrow, mostly basal, 1 to 3 inches long, rough on margins, curling and straw yellow when mature and dry; collar has a few long hairs; leaves rolled in bud; the ligule is up to 1/8 inch long, membranous, deeply cut on margins; auricles absent.

Ecological Adaptions:

Galleta is a fairly important native range grass in the drier foothills and deserts of Utah at elevations from 2500 to 7500 feet in the 5 to 16 inch rainfall belts where there is a definite summer precipitation pattern.

Soils: Galleta occurs in a wide variety of soils from shallow to deep and from coarse to fine texture, but is most abundant on fine textured soils. It is often found on clay soils where other grasses are rare.

Associated Species: Blue grama, big sagebrush, sandberg bluegrass, sand dropseed, shadscale, and winterfat.

Uses and Management:

Galleta is a desirable forage plant for cattle, horses, and sheep, particularly when used during late spring and summer. It is also used to some extent by deer and antelope. It can withstand heavy grazing.

It is useful for roadside seedings, campground, and picnic areas because it endures trampling. Up to 60 percent of the top growth of the plant can be utilized during the growing season or up to 75 percent during the dormant period; occasional deferment from grazing during the period of flowering and seed formation will help to keep this plant producing at its maximum level. It is considered to be an excellent plant for erosion control on semi-desert sites.