Bromus tectorum - L.
Cheatgrass
Other Common Names: cheatgrass
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Bromus tectorum L. (TSN 40524)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.135508
Element Code: PMPOA151H0
Informal Taxonomy: Plants, Vascular - Flowering Plants - Grass Family
 
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Plantae Anthophyta Monocotyledoneae Cyperales Poaceae Bromus
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Concept Reference
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Concept Reference: Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.
Concept Reference Code: B94KAR01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Bromus tectorum
Conservation Status
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NatureServe Status

Global Status: GNR
Global Status Last Changed: 22Mar1994
Rounded Global Status: GNR - Not Yet Ranked
Nation: United States
National Status: NNA
Nation: Canada
National Status: NNA (31Jul2016)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States Alabama (SNA), Alaska (SNA), Arizona (SNA), Arkansas (SNA), California (SNA), Colorado (SNA), Connecticut (SNA), Delaware (SNA), District of Columbia (SNA), Florida (SNA), Georgia (SNR), Hawaii (SNA), Idaho (SNA), Illinois (SNA), Indiana (SNA), Iowa (SNA), Kansas (SNA), Kentucky (SNA), Louisiana (SNA), Maine (SNA), Maryland (SNA), Massachusetts (SNR), Michigan (SNA), Minnesota (SNA), Mississippi (SNA), Missouri (SNA), Montana (SNA), Nebraska (SNA), Nevada (SNA), New Hampshire (SNA), New Jersey (SNA), New Mexico (SNA), New York (SNA), North Carolina (SNA), North Dakota (SNA), Ohio (SNA), Oklahoma (SNA), Oregon (SNA), Pennsylvania (SNA), Rhode Island (SNA), South Carolina (SNA), South Dakota (SNA), Tennessee (SNA), Texas (SNA), Utah (SNA), Vermont (SNA), Virginia (SNA), Washington (SNA), West Virginia (SNA), Wisconsin (SNA), Wyoming (SNA)
Canada Alberta (SNA), British Columbia (SNA), Manitoba (SNA), New Brunswick (SNA), Nova Scotia (SNA), Ontario (SNA), Quebec (SNA), Saskatchewan (SNA)

Other Statuses

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Distribution
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U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
NOTE: The distribution shown may be incomplete, particularly for some rapidly spreading exotic species.

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States AKexotic, ALexotic, ARexotic, AZexotic, CAexotic, COexotic, CTexotic, DCexotic, DEexotic, FLexotic, GA, HIexotic, IAexotic, IDexotic, ILexotic, INexotic, KSexotic, KYexotic, LAexotic, MA, MDexotic, MEexotic, MIexotic, MNexotic, MOexotic, MSexotic, MTexotic, NCexotic, NDexotic, NEexotic, NHexotic, NJexotic, NMexotic, NVexotic, NYexotic, OHexotic, OKexotic, ORexotic, PAexotic, RIexotic, SCexotic, SDexotic, TNexotic, TXexotic, UTexotic, VAexotic, VTexotic, WAexotic, WIexotic, WVexotic, WYexotic
Canada ABexotic, BCexotic, MBexotic, NBexotic, NSexotic, ONexotic, QCexotic, SKexotic

Range Map
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Ecology & Life History Not yet assessed
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Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
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Management Summary Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Delineation Not yet assessed
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Population/Occurrence Viability
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U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank)
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Disclaimer: While I-Rank information is available over NatureServe Explorer, NatureServe is not actively developing or maintaining these data. Species with I-RANKs do not represent a random sample of species exotic in the United States; available assessments may be biased toward those species with higher-than-average impact.

I-Rank: High
Rounded I-Rank: High
I-Rank Reasons Summary: Cheatgrass is found in all fifty states and dominates 100 million acres in the intermountain west. It occurs in wildlands most commonly in sagebrush/bunchgrass communities, although its distribution extends to higher-elevation juniper, pinyon-juniper, and pine woodlands. Widespread in sagebrush steppe communities, low-elevation salt-desert shrub communities, higher-elevation juniper, pine woodlands, coniferous forest zone of the Rocky Mountains, bunchgrass zone, ponderosa pine, sagebrush rangelands, desert-facing slopes of Sierra Nevada, interior Douglas-Fir communities, abandoned fields, riparian vegetation, riparian meadows, grasslands, abandoned cropland, roadsides, and "waste places".

It changes fire cycle frequency from once every 60-100 years to once every 3-5 years, causing perennials to give way to an annual community dominated by cheatgrass. It depletes soil moisture which may negatively affect the root growth of native species. It can form monospecific stands. Cheatgrass is used as green food for livestock and some wild animals also use it but its production is highly undependable because its based on precipitation plus the green period is much shorter.

A non-native game bird - Chukar - eats cheatgrass almost exclusively and its range is expanding following the cheatgrass; rangelands dominated by cheatgrass may also be more susceptible to invasion by other non-native plants such as medusahead. Cheatgrass can also affect bird habitat, eliminate forage, cause density declines in small mammals which in turn reduces the number of species that prey on the small mammals and has an affect on the slow moving species like the desert tortoises since they often cannot escape the fires. Desert communities are not adapted to fire and these communities can be converted to a cheatgrass community extremely quickly in years of high precipitation.

Cheatgrass has invaded the same type of habitats of Central Asia, Japan, S. Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland. It is still expanding locally but seeds have the ability to travel long distances. Seeds disperse by animals, humans, water, wind and machinery.


An integrated management approach involving burning, herbicide and revegetation is the suggested method of control. Seeds can remain viable for 2 - 5 years in the soil or 11 years in dry storage such as in hay.

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: High
Subrank II - Current Distribution/Abundance: High/Medium
Subrank III - Trend in Distribution/Abundance: Medium
Subrank IV - Management Difficulty: High/Medium
I-Rank Review Date: 30Jun2004
Evaluator: Killeffer, T.
Native anywhere in the U.S?
Native Range: Eurasia and the Mediterranean (Carpenter and Murray). Much of Europe, the northern rim of Africa and southwestern Asia (Zouhar 2003).

Download "An Invasive Species Assessment Protocol: Evaluating Non-Native Plants for their Impact on Biodiversity". (PDF, 1.03MB)
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Screening Questions

S-1. Established outside cultivation as a non-native? YES
Comments: It is a non-native established outside of cultivation (Kartesz 1999).

S-2. Present in conservation areas or other native species habitat? Yes
Comments: Widespread in sagebrush steppe communities, low-elevation salt-desert shrub communities, higher-elevation juniper, pinyon-juniper, pine woodlands, coniferous forest zone of the Rocky Mountains, bunchgrass zone, ponderosa pine, sagebrush rangelands, desert-facing slopes of Sierra Nevada, interior Douglas-Fir communities, abandoned fields, riparian vegetation, and riparian meadows (Zouhar 2003 and Bossard 2000).

Subrank I - Ecological Impact: High

1. Impact on Ecosystem Processes and System-wide Parameters:High significance
Comments: Changes fire cycle frequency from once every 60-100 years to once every 3-5 years, causing perennials to give way to an annual community dominated by cheatgrass. It alters the soil chemistry of the area and fuels wildfires (Carpenter and Murray, no date and Zouhar 2003). It also depletes soil moisture which may negatively affect the root growth of native species (Zouhar 2003). Can inhibit natural succession processes on many sites where it invades and there were no other annual grasses before (Zouhar 2003).

2. Impact on Ecological Community Structure:High significance
Comments: Forms monospecific stands. Shrub-steppe ecosystems turn into annual grasslands (Carpenter and Murray, no date).

3. Impact on Ecological Community Composition:High significance
Comments: Many ecosystems have been so seriously altered that they no longer have any of the native vegetation (Zouhar 2003). Displaces native shrubs and perennial grasses like big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), bluebunch (Agryopuron spicatum = Pseudorogneria spicata), crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii = Pascopyrum smithii), Sandberg bluegrass (Poa sandbergii = Poa secunda), needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata = Hesperostipa comata) and Thurber's needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana), and replaces with annual grasses, matchweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), and rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.) (Carpenter and Murray, no date).

4. Impact on Individual Native Plant or Animal Species:High significance
Comments: Displaces native shrubs and perennial grasses like big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), bluebunch (Agryopuron spicatum = Pseudorogneria spicata), crested wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum), western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii = Pascopyrum smithii), Sandberg bluegrass (Poa sandbergii = Poa secunda), needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata = Hesperostipa comata) and Thurber's needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana), and replaces with annual grasses (Carpenter and Murray). A non-native game bird - Chukar - eats cheatgrass almost exclusively and its range is expanding following the cheatgrass; rangelands dominated by cheatgrass may also be more susceptible to invasion by other non-native plants such as medusahead (Zouhar 2003). Cheatgrass is used as green food for livestock and some wild animals also use it but its production is highly undependable because its based on precipitation plus the green period is much shorter (Zouhar 2003). Cheatgrass can also affect bird habitat such as nesting or brood-rearing, eliminate forage such as for elk or mule deer, cause density declines in small mammals which in turn reduces the number of species that prey on the small mammals like coyotes, gopher snakes, and raptors such as the golden eagle and finally cheatgrass has an affect on the slow moving species like the desert tortoises since they often cannot escape the fires(Zouhar 2003).

5. Conservation Significance of the Communities and Native Species Threatened:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Desert communities are not adapted to fire and these communities can be converted to a cheatgrass community extremely quickly in years of high precipitation (Zouhar 2003).

Subrank II. Current Distribution and Abundance: High/Medium

6. Current Range Size in Nation:High significance
Comments: Established in all 50 states (Kartesz 1999).

7. Proportion of Current Range Where the Species is Negatively Impacting Biodiversity:Medium/Low significance
Comments: Bromus tectorum is the dominant species on more that 100 million acres of the Intermountain west. It occupies much of the grassland in eastern Washington, Idaho, eastern Oregon, Nevada, and Utah, and is the dominant species in many lower-elevation areas. The invasion of the Great Basin and Columbia Basin areas transformed the vegetation rapidly and probably permanently (Carpenter and Murray, no date).

8. Proportion of Nation's Biogeographic Units Invaded:High significance
Comments: In more than half of the TNC ecological regions based on its generalized range (Kartesz 1999 and TNC 2001).

9. Diversity of Habitats or Ecological Systems Invaded in Nation:High significance
Comments: In native species habitats, it is most commonly found in sagebrush/bunchgrass communities, although its distribution extends to higher-elevation juniper, pinyon-juniper, and pine woodlands (Bossard et al. 2000). Widespread in sagebrush steppe communities, low-elevation salt-desert shrub communities, higher-elevation juniper, pinyon-juniper, pine woodlands, coniferous forest zone of the Rocky Mountains, bunchgrass zone, ponderosa pine, sagebrush rangelands, desert-facing slopes of Sierra Nevada, interior Douglas-Fir communities, abandoned fields, riparian vegetation, riparian meadows, grasslands, abandoned cropland, roadsides, and "waste places" (Zouhar 2003).

Subrank III. Trend in Distribution and Abundance: Medium

10. Current Trend in Total Range within Nation:Low significance
Comments: Already occurs in all fifty states (Kartesz 1999).

11. Proportion of Potential Range Currently Occupied:Insignificant
Comments: Already occurs in all fifty states (Kartesz 1999).

12. Long-distance Dispersal Potential within Nation:High significance
Comments: Most seed fall near the parent plant. Some go short distances by wind and water. Seeds can be transported some distance by humans; machinery; in fur and feces of animals ; small rodent or ant caches; contaminated hay, grain, and straw; feathers; clothing; and roads (Zouhar 2003 and Carpenter and Murray, no date).

13. Local Range Expansion or Change in Abundance:High/Low significance
Comments: Spreading in the Rocky Mountain National Park (Rutledge 1998). The size and amount of cheatgrass has increased dramatically in the Great Basin, Columbia Basin, and Snake River (Zouhar 2003).

14. Inherent Ability to Invade Conservation Areas and Other Native Species Habitats:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Invades communities in the absence of disturbance by spreading along soil cracks and works its way into the natural community (Carpenter and Murray, no date). Disturbance is not necessary in intact shadscale-gray molly communities in Utah (Zouhar 2003) although in other communities, the invasion may be accelerated by disturbance whether it be major as with grazing or cultivation or minor as with rodents or predators digging in the soil (Zouhar 2003).

15. Similar Habitats Invaded Elsewhere:Low significance
Comments: It is also found in the same type of habitats of Central Asia, Japan, S. Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland (Carpenter and Murray, no date).

16. Reproductive Characteristics:High significance
Comments: Prolific seed producer - 450 kg seeds/hectare or approximately 300 seeds per head with an average of 600 plants/square foot and the smallest seed producing plant can be as little as one inch in height - reproduces only by seed, seed germination is staggered from August until May allowing it to persist in unpredictable environments, rapidly exploits the available water and nutrients in early spring (Carpenter and Murray, no date, Bossard 2000, and Zouhar 2003). Also capable of producing abundant tillers each with many flowers when released from competition after a fire; success of this species is attributed to its "phenotypic plasticity, rapid growth of an extensive root system, ability to germinate and establish over a wide range of temperature and moisture conditions, and ability to adapt to different environments through incidents of crossbreeding; under certain conditions, cheatgrass can produce a second seed crop; Seeds can remain dormant for 2 - 5 years in the soil or 11 years in dry storage (Rutledge 1998 and Butterfield 1996).

Subrank IV. General Management Difficulty: High/Medium

17. General Management Difficulty:High/Moderate significance
Comments: It has a persistant seed bank (Hiebert 2003). Substantial human intervention is needed on some sites with an integrated management approach is needed with burning, herbicide application, and reseeding in order to convert to desirable communities (Zouhar 2003 and Carpenter and Murray, no date).

18. Minimum Time Commitment:Medium/Low significance
Comments: With an integrated approach that really must involve revegetation, a two-to three-year effort can be used to control and revegetate an area that is almost exlusively dominated by cheatgrass. However, since the seeds can remain dormant for 2 - 3 years, there may still be new plants at the end of the third year if not all were killed (Carpenter and Murray, no date and Zouhar 2003).

19. Impacts of Management on Native Species:High/Moderate significance
Comments: The most effective method is the integrated approach which involves burning, tilling and spraying several times following up with revegetation. Any remaining natives prior to implementing the control would probably be reduced even further thus the importance of revegetation to prevent the re-invasion of cheatgrass (Zouhar 2003).

20. Accessibility of Invaded Areas:High/Moderate significance
Comments: Ranchers in the Intermountain and Pacific Northwest regions may not welcome the eradication of their plants because it is an important early season forage for cattle and sheep (Carpenter and Murray, no date). Some sites may also be inaccessible on slopes in the Sierra Nevada, riparian areas or higher elevation communities.
Authors/Contributors
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Botanical data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs), The North Carolina Botanical Garden, and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

References
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  • Bossard, C.C., J.M. Randall, and M. Hoshovsky. (eds.) 2000. Invasive Plants of California's Wildlands. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

  • Butterfield, C., J. Stubbendieck, and J. Stumpf. 1996. Species abstracts of highly disruptive exotic plants. Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, Jamestown, ND. Home Page: http://www.greatplains.org/npresource/othrdata/exoticab/exoticab.htm.

  • Carpenter, A. T., and T. A. Murray. No date. Element Stewardship Abstract for Bromus tectorum L. (Anisantha tectorum (L.) Nevski). Land Stewardship Consulting, Boulder, CO. Prepared for The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA. http://tncweeds.ucdavis.edu/esadocs/documnts/bromtec.pdf (accessed 2004).

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1994. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. 2nd edition. 2 vols. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

  • Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Rutledge, C. R., and T. McLendon. No date. An Assessment of Exotic Plant Species of Rocky Mountain National Park. Department of Rangeland Ecosystem Science, Colorado State University. 97 pp. Jamestown, ND: Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Home Page. http://www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/othrdata/explant/explant.htmVersion 15DEC98).

  • The Nature Conservancy. 2001. Map: TNC Ecoregions of the United States. Modification of Bailey Ecoregions. Online . Accessed May 2003.

  • Zouhar, K. 2003. Bromus tectorum. In: Fire Effects Information System, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Online. Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ (accessed June 2004).

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