Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Andropogon hallii


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Uchytil, Ronald J. 1988. Andropogon hallii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : ANDHAL SYNONYMS : Andropogon gerardii Vitman var. paucipilus (Nash) Fern. [26,54,62] SCS PLANT CODE : ANHA COMMON NAMES : sand bluestem sandhill bluestem turkey-foot TAXONOMY : The scientific name of sand bluestem is Andropogon hallii Hack. [16,17,27,29,66] Currently there is considerable disagreement over the taxonomic treatment of the grasses traditionally known as sand bluestem (Andropogon hallii Hack.) and big bluestem (A. gerardii Vitman). Various authorities have recognized these two bluestems either as distinct species [16,17,27,29] or as varieties within a single species [26,54,62]. Artificial hybridization experiments have shown that these two bluestems are completely interfertile [44], with offspring showing intermediate morphological characteristics [27,44]. These bluestems, however, show clear ecological differences: big bluestem is widely distributed in North America on moist prairie sites, while sand bluestem is restricted to drier, sandy soils in the Great Plains [6]. Where their ranges overlap, they freely interbreed. In the Nebraska Sandhills, sand bluestem is restricted to upland sand dunes, while big bluestem occurs only in low meadows. Hybrids with intermediate morphological characteristics are found in narrow zones 16 to 33 feet (5-10 m) wide at the dune-meadow interface [6]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO ENTRY


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Sand bluestem is restricted to the drier, sandy soils of the Great Plains [6]. It is locally common from eastern Montana to southwestern Minnesota and from the Dakotas to central Texas and eastern Arizona [1,26,29]. An outlying population is located in Illinois [10]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES30 Desert shrub FRES31 Shinnery FRES32 Texas savanna FRES35 Pinyon - juniper FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie STATES : AZ CO HI IL IA KS MN MT NE NM ND OK SD TX UT WY MEXICO BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 10 Wyoming Basin 12 Colorado Plateau 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 14 Great Plains 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K016 Eastern ponderosa forest K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland K039 Blackbrush K041 Creosotebush K053 Grama - galleta steppe K057 Galleta - threeawn shrubsteppe K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass K065 Grama - buffalograss K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass K070 Sandsage - bluestem prairie K071 Shinnery K074 Bluestem prairie K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie K081 Oak savanna K098 Northern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES : 63 Cottonwood 239 Pinyon - juniper SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Sand bluestem is an indicator of climax stands in a number of grassland community types; common associates include prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), sandhill muhley (Muhlenbergia purgens), and grama grasses (Bouteloua spp.) [33,63]. Published classification schemes listing sand bluestem as a climax indicator or as a dominant part of the vegetation are presented below: Area Classification Authority AZ forest hts, cts Hanks, Fitzhugh, & Hanks 1983 CO general veg. pas Baker 1980


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sand bluestem is a valuable forage grass because of its palatability and high yield. It is highly preferred by livestock, especially cattle which tend to seek it out during the summer [14,53,61]. In the Sandhills of Nebraska, sand bluestem is a palatable and nutritious component of upland hay [53]. Plants are eaten by small mammals, and the seeds are consumed by upland game birds and songbirds [23,41]. In Texas, sand bluestem is an important local food source for mule deer [11]. PALATABILITY : Sand bluestem is highly palatable. Livestock, especially cattle, tend to seek it out during the summer growing season [14]. Sand bluestem is most palatable in spring and summer during the green growth stage. It becomes tough and coarse at maturity; in Nebraska, however, it is reportedly highly palatable throughout the year [14,32,50,53]. Sand bluestem cures well and is utilized by horses and cattle in the winter [32]. The relish and degree of use shown by livestock and wildlife species for sand bluestem for several states has been rated as follows [14,19,22,41]: KS CO MT ND NE UT WY Cattle good good good good good good good Sheep ---- fair fair fair ---- fair good Horses ---- good good fair ---- good fair Pronghorn ---- ---- ---- poor ---- fair fair Elk ---- ---- fair ---- ---- fair poor Mule deer ---- ---- ---- poor ---- fair poor White-tailed deer ---- ---- ---- poor ---- ---- fair Small mammals fair ---- ---- ---- ---- fair fair Small nongame birds fair ---- ---- ---- ---- fair fair Upland game birds fair ---- ---- ---- ---- fair fair Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- poor poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Nutritive value of sand bluestem varies with season [13,40,43,50,60]. Digestibility decreases with maturity but remains high enough to make sand bluestem a fair winter forage. Sand bluestem is more digestible throughout the growing season than either prairie sandreed or little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) [13]. It has higher protein levels than prairie sandreed, little bluestem, or sand lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes) but lower protein levels than switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) [13,40,60]. Sand bluestem may be somewhat deficient in phosphorus [50,60]. Sand bluestem is considered a superior quality summer forage, however, because of the combination of its high palatability and chemical composition. COVER VALUE : Sand bluestem often grows in large patches which retain an upright vegetative structure. These provide good protective cover for smaller wildlife species. When growing with other tall grasses, sand bluestem provides essential nesting cover for prairie chickens, other upland game birds, small nongame birds, and small mammals. The degree to which sand bluestem provides environmental protection during one or more seasons for wildlife species has been rated as follows [19,30,41]: KS ND NM UT WY Pronghorn ---- poor ---- poor poor Elk ---- ---- ---- poor poor Mule deer ---- fair ---- poor poor White-tailed deer ---- good ---- ---- poor Small mammals ---- ---- ---- good fair Small nongame birds ---- fair ---- good fair Upland game birds good ---- good good fair Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- poor poor VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Sand bluestem is currently used to revegetate disturbed sites with sandy soil because its extensive system of roots and rhizomes allows it to quickly stabilize such sites. Sand bluestem has been used for rehabilitation of (1) sandy rangelands plowed and later abandoned, (2) sand dune "blowouts", and (3) mined lands. Sand bluestem can be established by broadcast seeding [34], with hay mulch underseeded with sand bluestem and other grasses [37], or by transplanting sod [61]. Seeds of sand bluestem exhibit a number of characteristics which indicate good potential for use in reclamation: good seed fill, broad range of optimal germination temperatures, and pronounced seedling vigor, even in drought conditions [20]. Seed generally should be planted in early spring to take advantage of soil moisture. Seed can also be planted in fall if moisture is sufficient; the warm soil temperatures during fall may promote maximum germination, while the decreasing soil temperature as the season progresses may favor seedling survival [52]. Sand bluestem is recommended for seeding where mean annual precipitation (MAP) exceeds 14 inches (35.5 cm) [55]. Several cultivars are available, including 'Elida', 'Garden', 'Goldstrike', and 'Woodward [31,55]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sand bluestem is an indicator of range in good condition [43,48]. It is classified as a decreaser but can withstand considerable grazing because of its rhizomatous habit. With continued heavy grazing, however, it loses vigor, develops a prostrate growth habit, and is eventually replaced by less desirable grasses such as prairie sandreed [43,53,61]. In Nebraska sand bluestem increased in abundance and vigor following the cessation of intensive livestock grazing. Annual biomass significantly increased despite below average precipitation. The increase was successively greater each of the 4 years of the study [45].


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Sand bluestem is a native, warm-season, perennial, rhizomatous tallgrass that grows 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m) tall. Well-developed rhizomes reach lengths of 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) in climax stands but only about 4 inches (10 cm) in recently vegetated shifting sands [58,61]. Root depths vary from 6 to 10 feet (1.8-3 m) [61]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Cryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sand bluestem is a poor seed producer. Tolstead [58] noted that in Nebraska seeds seldom formed even in well-developed communities. Sims and others [51] observed that only 36 percent of shoots of the cultivar 'Elida' developed seed heads. In sand bluestem stands in Kansas, Cornelius [15] observed that only 13.3 percent of florets contained caryopses. Seed does not require cold treatment to germinate [56]. Seeds germinate in the fall and overwinter as seedlings. Stubbendieck and McCully [52] noted that although high temperatures favored germination, lower temperatures favored seedling survival. Most reproduction in sand bluestem occurs via rhizomes. Rhizomes grow from axillary buds during June and July, turn upward in late summer, and then remain dormant, ready for shoot growth the following spring [51]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Sand bluestem is found almost exclusively on sandy soils. It is most common on sandhills, windblown sand dunes, and high and low sandy plains. It is only occasionally found on moderately coarse soils [53]. In the Northern and Central Great Plains, sand bluestem appears to be restricted to the upper and middle elevations of sand dunes and sandhills [3,5,6,51]. This preference is apparently related to soil moisture. In sandhills, there is very little soil development because of wind erosion. Here coarse-textured sands are found at the tops of dunes, and the finer sands near the bottom. The sandy characteristic of the soil at the upper reaches of the sand dunes allows for deep water percolation with very little runnoff. This water is stored at depths below 23.5 inches (60 cm) and is available to deeply rooted species such as sand bluestem throughout the growing season, even during dry summer periods [4]. Sand bluestem's importance in a plant community tends to decrease as sand content of the soil decreases. Finer textured soils do not absorb water as efficiently, nor does the water percolate as deeply, as in sandy soils. On these sites, sand bluestem must compete with shallow-rooted grasses, such as Stipa, Agropyron, and Bouteloua spp., which are better able to extract moisture in this soil type. Barnes and Harrison [4] observed that sand bluestem plants growing on fine-textured soils at the lower slopes of sand dunes experienced greater water stress than plants growing at mid or upper slopes. Elevational ranges for sand bluestem in several western states are as follows [8,19,25,62]: under 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in the Rincon Mountains, AZ from 3,500 to 5,200 feet (1,067-1,585 m) in CO 3,000 to 7,000 feet ( 914-2,134 m) in NM 2,800 to 3,800 feet ( 853-1,158 m) in MT 4,100 to 4,800 feet (1,250-1,463 m) in WY 4,600 to 5,800 feet (1,400-1,770 m) in UT SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Sand bluestem occurs in a variety of successional stages, from recently vegetated shifting sands to climax grassland communities [46,58,61]. It is a pioneer on sand blowouts where it often dominates with blowout grass (Redfieldia flexuosa), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and hairy prairie clover (Helianthus periolaris) [12]. In more mature stands it is often found with prairie sandreed, sandhill lovegrass (Eragrostis trichodes), sand dropseed, sandhill muhley (Muhlenbergia pungens), and needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata) [46,57,58]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Regrowth of sand bluestem occurs in late spring. Shoots originate primarily from axillary buds and apical meristems of short, terminal rhizomes [51]. Studying the growth of the cultivar 'Elida in eastern Colorado, Sims and others [51] observed that 26 percent of blade growth occurred by May 29, 81 percent by June 30, and 99 percent by July 28. Most of the leaves were dry by September 5, and all were dry by October 14. Sand bluestem exhibits ecotypic variation in relation to the time of flowering and maturity. Plants from the northern and western areas of its range flower earlier than plants growing in the southern and eastern portion of its range [38,40]. Flowering dates in several states was reported as follows [19,26,33,58]: Location Beginning of flowering End of flowering CO July Sept MT July Sept ND July Aug NE July Sept TX Aug Nov WY July Sept Phenology of two sand bluestem cultivars grown in Fergus Falls, Minnesota was reported as follows [42]: 'Garden' 'Goldstrike' (origin w NE) (origin nw NE) 1st emergence of inflorescence, July 28 August 4 10 culms or more 1st anthesis, 10 culms or more July 30 August 8 50% emergence of inflorescence August 16 August 23 1st seed mature August 21 August 24 Seed mature - starting to shatter October 9 October 9


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Native warm-season grasses, such as sand bluestem, are generally considered to be tolerant of fire if burned when dormant [18,49]. The well-developed rhizomes of sand bluestem are apparently deep enough in the soil to be protected from the damaging effects of grassland fires. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Survivor species; on-site surviving rhizomes


SPECIES: Andropogon hallii
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : NO-ENTRY DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Sand bluestem's response to fire is not well documented. Warm-season grasses generally are more harmed by fires that occur during active growth stages than by those that occur during periods of dormancy [18]. Results from a study comparing grass composition of areas in Nebraska burned in May and June with that of adjacent unburned areas showed that sand bluestem cover values decreased by about 2 percent [9]. In this study, sand bluestem plants were probably in an early growth stage when burned, which may account for the slight decrease in cover. In this same area of Nebraska, an October fire caused by lightning strikes resulted in no change in sand bluestem phytomass 1 year later [39]. Annual burning in April in a shinnery oak (Quercus havardi) community in Oklahoma resulted in increased forage production of sand bluestem [64]. Burning in April in Kansas caused an increase in the number of inflorescences of sand bluestem [15]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Fire has the potential to remove the protective vegetation in sandhills, thereby increasing the frequency of blowout formation [39]. If prescribed fires are planned in areas with unstable sandhills, they should be conducted just before the warm-season grasses present on the site break dormancy. This will leave the soil unprotected for the least amount of time.

References for species: Andropogon hallii

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