Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Agrostis gigantea


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Carey, Jennifer H. 1995. Agrostis gigantea. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : AGRGIG SYNONYMS : Agrostis alba auct. non L. [64,65] Agrostis alba var. alba L. [30] Agrostis stolonifera var. major (Gaudin) Farw. [23,42] SCS PLANT CODE : AGGI2 COMMON NAMES : redtop meadow redtop TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for redtop is Agrostis gigantea Roth (Poaceae) [22,28,33,34]. There is considerable taxonomic confusion concerning this species. In the literature, the most commonly used scientific name for redtop is A. alba L. However, Linnaeus based his A. alba on a Poa species; the A. alba in the literature is not the A. alba of Linnaeus [8]. In order to escape this confusion, some authors have dropped the name A. alba but have not reached a consensus on a new name. Redtop is often regarded merely as the nonstoloniferous, mostly rhizomatous variety of the morphologically variable creeping bentgrass (A. stolonifera) [23,42]. And conversely, creeping bentgrass is sometimes considered a variety of A. alba [30,36]. Most literature referring to either A. alba or A. stolonifera does not distinguish between the two species, and it is generally impossible to determine which species the literature is referring to. This writeup summarizes literature that refers to A. gigantea, A. alba, and A. stolonifera var. major. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Redtop, native to Europe, has been introduced throughout temperate North America as a pasture grass. It occurs from Newfoundland south to the mountains of northern Georgia and Alabama, west to California, and north to Alaska. It is apparently uncommon or absent from the warm, humid regions of the Gulf Coast and from the desert regions of the Southwest [15,22,28,33]]. ECOSYSTEMS : Redtop probably occurs in most ecosystems except those of the Gulf Coast. STATES : AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY AB BC MB NB NF NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 3 Southern Pacific Border 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 7 Lower Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : NO-ENTRY SAF COVER TYPES : 210 Interior Douglas-fir 217 Aspen 221 Red alder 222 Black cottonwood-willow 223 Sitka spruce 235 Cottonwood-willow SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : 216 Montane meadows 313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge 408 Other sagebrush types 411 Aspen woodland 421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose 422 Riparian 601 Bluestem prairie 602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed 802 Missouri prairie 905 Bluejoint reedgrass Redtop may occur in other SRM Cover Types as well. HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Redtop occurs in wet to moist meadows and grasslands. It occurs in pure stands or with sedges (Carex spp.), spikerushes (Eleocharis spp.), Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis), and quackgrass (Elytrigia repens) [31,58]. In Montana it occurs with Nebraska sedge (C. nebrascensis), meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis), Baltic rush (Juncus balticus), scouringrush horsetail (Equisetum hyemale), and common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) [26]. It occurs in the southern Appalachian grass balds dominated by mountain oatgrass (Danthonia compressa) [40]. Redtop frequently occurs in riparian areas. Brichta [5] describes sandbar willow (Salix exigua)/redtop and fowl bluegrass (Poa palustris)/redtop wetland community types in Montana. In Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Oregon, redtop was one of the dominant grasses in the flood meadow vegetation which receives 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) of floodwater in April or May [7]. Redtop occurs in the following riparian dominance types at Malheur: mountain alder (Alnus incana), mountain silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana spp. viscidula), sandbar willow, MacKenzie's willow (Salix prolixa), and Kentucky bluegrass [45]. Redtop also occurs in some open forested communities. It is an understory species in the following streamside communities in Olympic National Park, Washington: red alder (Alnus rubra), bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), and Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis)-western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla)-black cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) [16]. Redtop was present in the pine grass (Calamagrostis rubescens) phase of the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii)/twinflower (Linnaea borealis) habitat type in western Montana [25]. Redtop is described as a community dominant in the following publications: Environmental relationships among wetland community types of the northern range, Yellowstone National Park [5] Classification and management of Montana's riparian and wetland sites [26]


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Redtop is grown for livestock forage on moist sites [15]. PALATABILITY : Redtop forage in moist meadows generally remains green and palatable throughout the growing season [62]. Redtop has fairly good palatability to livestock in spring and early summer, but palatability decreases after seeds are mature and is poor in the winter [57]. Redtop is not as palatable as other meadow grasses such as timothy (Phleum pratense) and Kentucky bluegrass [66]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Redtop forage averages 14.8 percent protein, 5.0 percent ether extract, 27.1 percent crude fiber, 44.7 percent nitrogen-free extract, and 5.6 percent lignin (dry weight) [17]. COVER VALUE : Redtop is preferred nesting cover for prairie chickens. They began using redtop, grown for seed in Illinois and Missouri, when the native prairie habitat became scarce [60]. See FIRE MANAGEMENT for further discussion of redtop management for prairie chickens. VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Redtop is used for temporary erosion control. Redtop is adapted to wet, poorly drained conditions and is often used to improve streambank stability [56,61]. It grows well on acidic and clayey sites [56]. Redtop colonized metal-contaminated soil in the smelting region near Sudbury, Ontario [63]. It has been used with other grasses to revegetate abandoned manganese mines in southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee [41]. Redtop was planted with other grasses on lands disturbed by the Trans-Alaska Pipeline [9]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Prior to 1940, redtop was one of the most commonly grown pasture grasses in the U.S. Its use has declined considerably since then because it is less palatable than other meadow grasses [15,66] and because soybeans became a more economical crop in regions where redtop was grown [60]. Redtop is now used primarily on nutrient-poor or poorly drained soils for hay and pasture [15]. Planting, seed harvest, and storage of redtop seeds is described [20,57]. Redtop is favored by grazing [11,19,37]. Redtop decreased substantially in exclosures protected from grazing for 12 years in Idaho [37]. Redtop does not inhibit growth of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) seedlings when they are planted together after fire [3]. Redtop is very susceptible to the herbicide atrazine. In prairie vegetation in the Midwest, atrazine is used to eliminate or suppress cool-season grasses such as redtop while either enhancing or having a neutral effect on warm-season grasses [48].


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Redtop is an introduced, perennial, rhizomatous, cool-season, sod-forming grass with erect, stout, stems growing 2 to 4 feet (0.6-1.2 m) tall. The panicle is 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) long and notably suffused with purplish-red. Lemmas are rarely awned [22,29]. Rhizomes are less than 10 inches (25 cm) long [28] and are generally shallow [27]. Rhizomes have been reported to occur to a depth of 6 inches (15 cm) [18]. Redtop apparently intergrades with creeping bentgrass; redtop has mostly erect culms and rhizomes, and creeping bentgrass has mostly decumbent, stoloniferous culms. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Redtop regenerates vegetatively and by seed. Germination rates are high, generally 85 percent or greater [20,61]. No pretreatment is necessary but light is required for germination [20]. Redtop seeds are long-lived and accumulate in a seedbank [6,38]. Germination was 91 percent after 6 years of storage [61] and 50 percent after 20 years of storage in an uncontrolled environment [32]. Redtop spreads rapidly with strong rhizomes [26,57]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Redtop is a facultative wetland species [47]. It grows in mesic to semi-hydric conditions and is tolerant of some flooding [57]. It is not tolerant of drought [27]. Redtop grows on a wide variety of soil types and textures. It is tolerant of moderately acidic soils and soils low in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium. It is not suited for limey soils or limestone sites [57]. Redtop grows from sea level to subalpine elevations. In California it occurs below 7,500 feet (2,300 m) elevation [42]. It grows up to timberline in Montana [59]. Redtop has good cold tolerance [57]. It successfully overwintered at Prudhoe Bay in Alaska, and in Yellowknife and the Mackenzie River region in the Northwest Territories [27]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Redtop is considered shade intolerant [20] to moderately adapted to shade [27]. It occurs in some open forested areas. Redtop colonizes disturbed sites. It was present on a mudflow 1 year after the May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens [24]. It is a pioneering species on recently exposed gravel and sandbars [26,39]. On the peatlands of Wisconsin, a Kentucky bluegrass-redtop association may succeed the bluejoint reedgrass (Calamagrostis canadensis)-sedge association, especially under heavy grazing [19]. Older stands of redtop may be replaced by forbs. In southeastern Illinois, forbs such as western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), goldenrod (Solidago spp.), common eveningprimrose (Oenothera biennis), common cinquefoil (Potentilla simplex), white sweetclover (Melilotus alba), and yellow sweetclover (M. officinalis) invade 3- to 4-year-old redtop fields [60]. In the Midwest, reed canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea), which forms dense monocultures and threatens natural wetlands, invades redtop meadows and inhibits its growth in 3 to 5 months [2]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Redtop begins growth in early to mid-spring and matures by mid- to late summer [57]. In New York redtop flowers from June to July [10]. In the Northwest, the southern Appalachian Mountains, and California, redtop flowers from mid-June to early September [8,42,52]. It flowers from June to August in the Great Plains [23]. Rhizomes undergo the greatest development in July [13].


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Redtop is fairly resilient to fire because of its rhizomes and buried seed. Most natural fires in redtop stands probably occur in the fall when the grass has dried out. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Fire top-kills redtop. Rhizomes probably survive most fires, but they can be severely damaged by the shallow burning of peat [19]. Seeds buried in soil probably survive most fires. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Fire generally favors redtop. Rhizomes sprout after fire and buried seed may germinate. Redtop was present in the postfire vegetation of the Sundance Burn in northern Idaho. On several sites it was present and flowered in postfire years 1 and 2, but on other sites it did not appear until more than 10 years after the fire [50]. Redtop was not present on the Curtis Prairie, Wisconsin, in 1951, but after 10 years of biennial dormant season burning, it had 8 percent frequency [1]. The Hayden Prairie in northeastern Iowa was subject to early spring fires. Redtop seedstalks, inventoried in August, did not differ substantially between burned and unburned sites. Redtop seedstalk density on sites burned 2 and 3 consecutive years was not significantly diffferent from that on sites burned a single time [11]. Early spring fires in southeastern Iowa pastureland dominated by exotic cool-season grasses had no significant (P<0.05) effect on redtop cover [48]. In south-central New York, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) fields and goldenrod-poverty oatgrass (Danthonia spicata) fields burned by spring wildfires were compared to adjacent unburned sites. Redtop increased with burning; on little bluestem fields, redtop frequency averaged 17 percent on the unburned plots and 38 percent on the burned plots. On goldenrod fields, redtop frequency was 25 percent on unburned plots and 39 percent on burned plots [53]. However, redtop decreased with 17 years of early April annual and biennial burning of little bluestem fields in Connecticut [44]. The repeated burning may have stressed redtop, or the species present may have actually been a nonrhizomatous form of creeping bentgrass, which may be more susceptible to fire than redtop. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Redtop has been seeded onto burns with other grasses to prevent erosion [12,43,49]. In northeastern Washington, redtop excelled on northeast-facing slopes where moisture was high. Redtop was not as vigorous on southwest-facing exposures but was still present 4 years after the seeding [12]. Prescribed burning rejuvenates redtop fields and is recommended to enhance prairie chicken cover in the Midwest. Fields should be burned 3 to 4 years after seeding (either in August or in March prior to nesting season) to remove duff, improve redtop vigor, and control weeds. A second fire may be desirable 3 years after the first fire if the area is not too densely invaded by forbs [60]. Early spring fire followed by the application of the herbicide atrazine significantly (P<0.05) reduced redtop in most treatments [48].


SPECIES: Agrostis gigantea
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