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Patrick Alexander @
Yavapai County Native & Naturalized Plants

Achnatherum nelsonii - Columbia needlegrass

Synonyms: Stipa columbiana, Stipa nelsonii, Stipa occidentalis

Other Common Names: Subalpine needlegrass, western needlegrass

Plant Form:Grass

Family: Poaceae

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Patrick Alexander @
  Grass Description -   Glossary of Grass Terminology

Origin: Native    Season: Cool
Habitat Description: Openings in upper sagebrush zones, mountain brush, pinyon-juniper and aspen-fir communities.
Plant Communities: Interior Chaparral, Pinyon Juniper Woodland, Montane Conifer Forest
Elevation: 5000 - 8000 feet

Similar Species: Achnatherum robustum

General Description

Desc: Perennial bunchgrass that grows in dense, leafy tufts. Roots are deep and fibrous and can extend vertically to more than 3 feet deep.
Identification notes: Lemmas have long slender somewhat sparse hairs. Awn mostly more than 1 inch long. Sheaths not hairy at the collar. Lower nodes of panicle without hairs. Blades are long and bright green.
Grass Type: Perennial bunchgrass  Rhizomes: N  Stolons: N
Large Dense Clump (> 2 feet): N  Bushy (highly branched): N
Height with Seedheads: 24 to 36 inches
Seedhead Structure: Branched - contracted  Seedhead Droops: N
Flowering Period: Jun - Sep

Flower Characteristics

Number of Flowers per Spikelet: One-flowered  Spikelets One-sided: N
Awns: Greater than 1 inch   Three Awns: N  Awns Bent: Y

Flower and Seedhead Notes: The seedhead is a dense, slender, spike-like panicle or raceme. Awns twice-bent, first 2 segments are hairy.

Vegetative Characteristics

Blade Hairy: N  Blade with White Margin: N  Blade Cross Section: Flat  
Blade Notes: Leaves are flat when green and rolled at the margins when dry, 4 to 10 inches long, sometimes longer and less than 1/4 inch wide.
Sheath Hairy: N  Tuft of Hairs Top of Sheath or Collar: N  Ligules: Membranous
Auricles (Ear-like lobes at base of blades): N
Vegetative Notes: The lower internodes of the seedhead stems are usually hairless. Basal sheaths are hairless or sometimes sparsely to densely pubescent (covered with short, soft hairs). Lower ligules rounded to squared, upper ligules tapered to a point.

Forage Value: This is a palatable grass to domestic livestock such as cattle, horses and sheep. It is also consumed by mule deer. However, when the awns mature, it becomes undesirable to most animals.

  Arizona Cooperative Extension
Yavapai County
840 Rodeo Dr #C
Prescott, AZ 86305
(928) 445-6590
Version 8.0  
Last Updated: Feb 16, 2020  
Content Questions/Comments: Email Jeff Schalau  
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