|Photo © 2010 Michael O'Brien|
|Map courtesy of Grass Manual on the Web © University of Utah. (2011, June 21).|
Cane bluestem is considered most common in Arizona, New Mexico, western Texas, and north-central Mexico . Although only native to the Southwest, cane bluestem has been introduced to other parts of the United States and grows as far north as British Columbia . Cane bluestem was introduced to Hawaii's Molokai Island in 1905  and, as of 1990, occurred on the islands of Niihau, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui .
The Plants database  reported cane bluestem in the following states as of 2011:
United States: AZ, CA, CO, FL, HI, NM, NV, OK, SC, TX, UT
SITE CHARACTERISTICS AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Site characteristics: Throughout its range, cane bluestem is described from open slopes, mesas, high plains, and plateaus to bottomlands, washes, swales, and floodplains [5,33,63,90]. Although commonly found on sandy, gravelly sites [40,51,52,91], cane bluestem may be most common in those microsites that support pooling water after high precipitation events [16,49,75].
Climate: In its southwestern range, growth and distribution of cane bluestem are often described in relation to precipitation. When growing in areas that are occasionally flooded by heavy summer rains, cane bluestem may grow where annual precipitation is as low as 5 inches (130 mm) . Increased moisture availability can increase cane bluestem production, but productivity increases are limited. At the Big Spring Field Station in Texas, cane bluestem growth was compared without irrigation and with moderate and heavy irrigation. Plants in moderately irrigated plots were at least twice as productive as those in unirrigated plots but were no more nor less productive than those in heavily irrigated plots . In the field, timing of rainfall may be important to cane bluestem production. On a cattle-grazed, semidesert range at the base of the Santa Rita Mountains in Arizona, August rainfall was highly correlated with the subsequent summer's perennial grass production (r values for the productivity of perennial grasses, including cane bluestem, ranged from 0.63-0.79). Winter precipitation and previous summer's rainfall were not correlated with the next summer's perennial grass production .
Elevation: In North America, cane bluestem is most common at elevations between 1,600 and 3,900 feet (500-1,200 m) , but elevations beyond this range are reported (Table 1).
|Table 1. Elevation ranges for cane bluestem by state or region|
|State and/or region||Elevation range (feet)|
|Arizona (southern)||3,500-5,000 |
|Nevada (southern)||2,300-3,000 |
|New Mexico||3,500-7,000 [33,63]|
Soils: Cane bluestem grows on a variety of soil types and textures, but growth may be best on calcareous, deep loams or sandy loams with "good plant-soil moisture relationships" [35,60]. Sandy, gravelly, and rocky soils are tolerated, but in coarse-textured soils, cane bluestem may be restricted to depressional, moisture-accumulating areas [16,60]. In southern California, cane bluestem is common on well-drained soils and is frequent along dry washes and gullies . In desert grasslands in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, cane bluestem production was greatest in man-made furrows (about 10 inches (25 cm) deep) where water accumulated . In north-central Texas, cane bluestem is common on stony or rocky limestone soils . In the Grand Prairie and Cross Timbers regions of Texas, cane bluestem is reported on loamy bottomlands and tight sandy loams, respectively . In southwestern rangelands, cane bluestem is "particularly abundant" on graded roads, banks of washes, and other sites with exposed soils .
On cattle-grazed, semidesert rangelands in southern Arizona, cane bluestem was most important on sites with shallow stony or cobbly soils and less important on sites with clay subsoils and well-developed horizons or on sites with sand or sandy loam subsoils and weak profile development. Grazing may have confounded the study findings. Cane bluestem's importance on shallow stony soils may have related more to its steep slope position and escape from heavy grazing than to soil texture or depth . On the Appleton-Whittell Research Sanctuary in Santa Cruz County, Arizona, cane bluestem was most common on level to gentle, south-facing, upland slopes that lacked surface rocks .
Salinity: In their literature review, Shafroth and others  report that cane bluestem tolerates moderate (4-8 dS/m) salinity levels. In the greenhouse, cane bluestem germination was similar between seeds without salt exposure and seeds exposed to low (1.3 dS/m) salinity. Cane bluestem seedling biomass was not different between low and high (15 dS/m) salinity levels .
Plant communities: Cane bluestem is generally most common in semidesert and desert grasslands [43,61,64,65], although it also occurs in semidesert shrublands, savannas, and woodlands . It rarely dominates any vegetation type and typically decreases with increasing shading and grazing pressure. In southwestern rangelands, cane bluestem often occurs as scattered plants or small groups of plants; it rarely occurs in dense, pure stands [49,75]. On the Appleton-Whittell Research Sanctuary, cane bluestem was not widespread or abundant in grassland or oak (Quercus spp.) savanna vegetation but, because of its height, was often conspicuous .
Grasslands: In parts of southern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and western Texas, cane bluestem can be locally important. On Turkey Creek Ridge in Cochise County, Arizona, the sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)-cane bluestem community occurs in areas where water concentrates . A black grama (B. eriopoda)-cane bluestem association is recognized on White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico . In western Texas, the cane bluestem-multiflower false Rhodes grass (Trichloris pluriflora) vegetation type is found in restricted areas but was nearly eliminated by overgrazing and brush clearing [78,85]. In the Sierra Tierra Vieja Mountains of Trans-Pecos, Texas, cane bluestem cover was "considerable" on the eastern slopes of low foothills .
In southeastern Arizona, cane bluestem occurs in desert or semidesert grasslands dominated by grama (Bouteloua spp.) grasses [68,93]. In the Santa Catalina Mountains, desert grasslands occupy quartzite, bajada, and limestone soils . In the central Peloncillo Mountains of New Mexico, cane bluestem occurs in grama steppe , and in Texas, cane bluestem is a common midsized grass in mixed-grass prairies (Allred 1956 as cited in ).
Shrublands: Cane bluestem is a minor to common component of coastal sage scrub in California , Arizona chaparral in Arizona and New Mexico [24,57,76], and other desert shrublands in the Southwest . The Arizona chaparral type is typically dominated by shrub live oak (Q. turbinella) and pointleaf manzanita (Arctostaphylos pungens) . In southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, cane bluestem occurs in desert scrub vegetation on limestone soils with Rio Grande saddlebush (Mortonia scabrella), whitethorn acacia (Acacia constricta), and sacahuista (Nolina spp.); it occurs in spinose desert scrub vegetation with ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Palmer's century plant (Agave palmeri), and cactus apple (Opuntia engelmannii) [64,93]. In the same region, cane bluestem occurs in the black grama-tobosa-creosotebush (Pleuraphis mutica-Larrea tridentata) vegetation type recognized by Kuchler .
Savannas and woodlands: In Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, cane bluestem can be found with oak, juniper, and mesquite (Juniperus and Prosopis spp.). In central Arizona and western Texas, cane bluestem has been described in Pinchot juniper (J. pinchotii) savannas or woodlands [4,34]. In Arizona, cane bluestem occurs in oak or oak-pine woodlands and savannas where Arizona white oak (Q. arizonica), Emory oak (Q. emoryi), and/or Mexican blue oak (Q. oblongifolia) dominates the canopy layer on acidic and basic soils [17,29,92,93,93]. In New Mexico and Texas, cane bluestem is often associated with mesquite savannas [55,56,62]. In Texas, mesquite cover types are reported on deep sands, gravelly loams, and clays [26,28].Outside of cane bluestem's most common range, savannas and woodland associates can be more variable. In California, cane bluestem occurs in Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) woodlands . In southern Utah, cane bluestem is found in pinyon (Pinus spp.)-juniper and ponderosa pine (P. ponderosa) communities . In the arid zone on Molokai Island, Hawaii, cane bluestem is "plentiful" in deep, fertile soils with mesquite and tanglehead (Heteropogon contortus) .
Cane bluestem is a perennial bunchgrass with erect to spreading stems that are 20 to 60 inches (50-150 cm) tall [25,42,66,67]. With age, stems become more decumbent at the base [91,94]. Cane bluestem produces coarse cauline and basal leaves [42,61]. Leaves are flat, 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long, and 2 to 10 mm wide [40,42,91]. Leaf blades are typically hairless, but stem nodes are densely hairy [25,63,66,67]. Cane bluestem produces terminal fan-shaped panicles with dense racemes [27,51]. The entire inflorescence is 1 to 6 inches long (4-16 cm), and individual racemes are 0.8 to 2.5 inches (2-7 cm) long [25,63,66,67]. Small spikelets, 4 to 6 mm long, occur in pairs at each node [52,66,67]; the upper spikelet is perfect, and the lower spikelet is male or neuter and typically much reduced [66,67,91]. The fertile lemma has a twisted awn that is 0.6 to 1.2 inches (1.5-3 cm) long [25,42,91]. Cane bluestem has been described as "strong-rooted", producing dense, fibrous roots that extend 1 to 4 feet (0.3-1.2 m) deep .Raunkiaer  life form:
Pollination and breeding system: Cane bluestem flowers are generally self-fertilized before florets open . In a greenhouse study, 51.4% of self-fertilized flowers produced seed, and 76.9% of cross-fertilized flowers produced seed. Researchers reported that florets were often closed at anthesis. Anthers and stigmas made contact before florets opened, and cleistogamous seeds were produced .
Seed production: In the reviewed literature (as of 2011), little was reported about cane bluestem seed production under field conditions. Following revegetation of desert grasslands in Arizona, researchers reported cane bluestem seed yields were generally low .
Under ideal growing conditions, cane bluestem may produce seed in its first year. In October 1989, cane bluestem seed collected from Big Bend National Park was planted in a research field in Knox City, Texas. By the following fall, cane bluestem had produced seed .
Seed dispersal: Cane bluestem seeds can be transported "some distance" by wind . Twisted awns on fertile lemmas suggest that cane bluestem seeds may be transported by animals. During revegetation studies in Arizona, researchers reported that cane bluestem spread "fairly effectively" through seeding .
Seed banking: Cane bluestem seed bank studies were uncommon in the reviewed literature (as of 2011). However, a study comparing aboveground vegetation and seed banks at 2 sites in Arizona suggests the cane bluestem seed bank may be short-lived. At the Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch, cane bluestem occurred in the aboveground vegetation at all 8 plots but was recovered from a seed bank sample from only 1 plot. Cane bluestem seed germinated from the litter layer sample and comprised only 0.1% of the seed bank for the site. At Oracle State Park in Pinal County, cane bluestem occurred in the aboveground vegetation in 3 of 8 plots but did not germinate from any seed bank samples put in the growth chamber .
Germination: High cane bluestem germination percentages were reported from field and laboratory studies. At a semidesert site on Arizona's Santa Rita Experimental Range, cane bluestem germination generally exceeded 75% . In field experiments in southeastern Arizona, cane bluestem typically germinated rapidly and produced a few, large seedling cohorts. Cane bluestem germinated after rain events, but germination after initial rain was limited .
When cane bluestem germination was compared at constant and abruptly or gradually changing temperatures, germination was best (88-93%) and most rapid at a constant temperature of 77 °F (25 °C). Seeds were germinated in incubators under unlimited moisture conditions and temperatures that approached seasonal field conditions. Cane bluestem generally failed to germinate at the minimum and maximum temperatures tested (46 °F (7.8 °C) and 86 °F (30 °C)). Germination was high (80%-92%) when temperature fluctuations were gradual, regardless of the seasonal temperature tested. When temperature changes were abrupt, germination was 76% for summer, 69% for spring, and 56% for winter temperatures .
Seedling establishment and plant growth: The few studies available suggest that postgermination moisture may be most important to cane bluestem establishment and survival. Cane bluestem seedlings develop rapidly, but environmental conditions and grazing can affect seedling growth. After revegetation studies in desert grasslands in Arizona, researchers reported "rapid" and "vigorous" cane bluestem seedling growth . In a laboratory wind tunnel, early growth of cane bluestem seedlings was reduced by exposure to wind and wind with sand. Decreases due to exposure were greater at the 2-leaf stage than at the 6-leaf stage. Generally wind with sand decreased seedling production more than wind alone . In a greenhouse study, cane bluestem seedling root growth was rapid until the 3-leaf stage, when root growth began to slow. By the 12-leaf stage, root growth was again rapid. Removing 30% to 60% of first-year plant biomass did not significantly affect root or herbage production, but 90% removal significantly (P<0.05) reduced both root and herbage production . In a field experiment, the length of 29-day-old seedling roots was greatest in frequently watered pots, but the number of tiller roots was greatest in pots watered less frequently. Watering frequencies evaluated included: 1) 200 ml of water every 2 days, 2) 400 ml of water every 4 days, 3) 300 ml water every 3 days, or 4) 600 ml water every 6 days .
Field studies suggest that the moisture available following germination may be the most important influence on seedling establishment and survival. During field experiments in southeastern Arizona, cane bluestem generally germinated rapidly and produced few but large seedling cohorts. Seedling mortality was greatest in the first week after emergence. The probability of successful establishment increased when seeds were planted during the summer rainy season, typically July through September when 60% of annual precipitation occurs. For seeds sown on 28 June or 10 August, cane bluestem seedling survival on 15 October averaged 77.5%. About 10% of seedlings produced tillers, and fewer than 4% of seedlings produced seed .
Precipitation after seeding was more important than plot treatments in Lehmann lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana)-dominated semidesert grasslands in southern Arizona. In 1992, cane bluestem establishment was better after sowing seed in June than in August, a year in which July precipitation was more consistent than August precipitation. In 1993, establishment was better after sowing seed in August than in June, a year in which precipitation was more consistent in August and September than in June and July. Differences between treatments were significant in the 1992 planting but not in the 1993 planting. In the 1992 planting, cane bluestem seedling establishment was significantly greater in mowed than herbicide-treated plots, in herbicide-treated than burned plots, and in burned than control plots (Table 2). Differences between treatments observed in the 1992 planting persisted to some extent into the 2nd year, when density of seedlings was significantly greater on burned, mowed, and herbicide-treated plots than on control plots (P<0.05 for all treatment and control comparisons). There were 14 cane bluestem seedlings/m² on mowed plots, 7.2 seedlings/m² on herbicide-treated plots, 3.6 seedlings/m² on burned plots, and 0.4 seedlings/m² on control plots .
|Table 2. Average cane bluestem seedling densities (seedlings/m²) at the end of the 1st growing season |
(standing dead vegetation)
(standing live vegetation)
|June 1992||6.6 c||25.0 a||13.4 b||0.2 d|
|August 1992||0 a||6.4 a||0.4 a||0.6 a|
|June 1993||1.4 a||0.2 a||0.2 a||0 a|
|August 1993||18.0 a||25.0 a||18.6 ab||9.0 b|
|Values within a row followed by different letters are significantly different (P<0.05).|
Vegetative regeneration: Cane bluestem likely sprouts from the root crown after top-kill, although this was not specifically reported in the reviewed literature (as of 2011). Because cane bluestem is a bunchgrass, increase in plant size through tillering also occurs.SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
Cane bluestem has been described as both an early- and late-seral species. Because of high growth rates, precocious reproduction, high productivity, and tolerance of early-seral conditions by beardgrass species (Bothriochloa spp.) in South America, researchers categorized them as "r" strategists, which would likely thrive in early-seral conditions . In the Grand Prairie and the western Cross Timbers regions of Texas, cane bluestem is reported in late-seral communities , and in the Rolling Hills and Brewster Hills of Trans-Pecos Texas, cane bluestem is considered a "climax" grass .
Several studies indicate that cane bluestem tolerates early-seral conditions. Humphrey  reported that cane bluestem was "particularly abundant" on graded roads, banks of washes, and other sites with exposed soils. Cane bluestem was first reported on a pipeline 4 years after construction was completed in succulent desert vegetation in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Immediately following construction, the pipeline was entirely devoid of vegetation . On 5- to 3,100-year-old debris flows along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, cane bluestem occurred on two 28-year-old flows .
Shade tolerance: Studies suggest that cane bluestem is less productive in the shade than in the open. On a ranch near Mertzon, Texas, cane bluestem production was "improved" by the 4th growing season after herbicide treatments controlled 92% of Pinchot juniper . In a grassland on shallow soil in Lynn County, Texas, cane bluestem was not reported beneath the canopy of live Pinchot juniper trees, but 1 year after the trees were treated with herbicide, cane bluestem production beneath dead trees was 42 lbs/acre . Cane bluestem density and cover were greatest on open sites when these were compared with sites beneath canopies of velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) and buck-horn cholla (Cylindropuntia acanthocarpa) in a semidesert grassland north of Tucson, Arizona (Table 3). Differences between open and buck-horn cholla sites were not significant. Researchers suggested that the open-canopy structure of buck-horn cholla may have produced conditions similar to that of open sites. Study findings are summarized in Table 3 .
|Table 3. Comparison of cane bluestem density and cover between open and canopy sites in a Chihuahuan semidesert grassland |
|Canopy conditions||Open||Buck-horn cholla||Velvet mesquite|
|Density (plants/0.25 m²)||8.8 a||2.0 ab||1.4 b|
|Cover (%)||5.7 a||4.3 ab||1.9 b|
|Values within a row with different letters are significantly different (P<0.05).|
Disturbance tolerance: Studies indicate that mechanical disturbances and grazing can reduce cane bluestem abundance. Results from fire studies are not as consistent; in some cases, fire has increased cane bluestem abundance  and recruitment  (for details, see Fire Effects and Management).
In the South Texas Plains, the cane bluestem-multiflower false Rhodes grass vegetation type was nearly eliminated by overgrazing and brush clearing .
Grazing: Several studies report decreased cane bluestem abundance with livestock grazing. Because cane bluestem decreases "rapidly" with over utilization, some consider its high abundance a useful indicator of good to excellent range condition . Although cane bluestem abundance is typically less on grazed than protected sites, duration of protection, grazing intensity, and grazing frequency can affect abundance. On most sites cane bluestem cover is generally low (see Plant communities), so even small changes in cover can reflect large differences in the abundance on and appearance of a site.
In several studies that compared grazed and protected sites in southern Arizona, cane bluestem abundance on protected sites was more than double that on grazed sites [10,15,77]. In one southern Arizona study, frequency of cane bluestem was much greater on protected (30%) than unprotected (3.7%) desert grassland sites. Researchers classified cane bluestem as a "climax" species that decreased with grazing .
Several studies suggest that continuous and heavy grazing may be most detrimental to cane bluestem. At the Big Spring Field Station in Texas, production of cane bluestem clipped 3 times/season was less than that of unclipped plants . At the Sonora Research Station on Edwards Plateau, Texas, cane bluestem abundance increased inside an exclosure that excluded large mammals for up to 25 years. The site was grazed heavily and continuously until 1948, when the exclosure was constructed. In 1948 and 1953, the basal diameter of cane bluestem was 1 cm/m² inside the exclosure; basal diameter increased to 4 to 5 cm/m² between 1958 and 1968. However, researchers observed that cane bluestem increased even more in an adjacent area that was grazed in a deferred rotation pattern. Abundance differences between the ungrazed and deferred pasture were not reported . After 45 years of studies in heavily grazed, moderately grazed, and ungrazed juniper-oak savanna at the Texas A&M University Agricultural Research Station, researchers reported that cane bluestem was rare or absent from heavily grazed sites and increased with decreased herbivory .Although grazing tends to reduce cane bluestem abundance, that is not the case in all southwestern livestock grazing studies. In a plains-mesa grassland in the Animas Valley of New Mexico, cane bluestem cover averaged 2.9% outside of exclosures and 1.7% inside exclosures that excluded livestock but not native herbivores. Exclosures had protected sites from livestock for 4 years . In the southern San Simon Valley in Arizona, researchers found that recovery of perennial grasses can take a long time on continuously grazed sites, where shrubs have increased with grazing pressure. Researchers compared vegetation inside and outside of 20- and 39-year exclosures. Cane bluestem was present in both exclosures, but "substantial" increases were only apparent within the 39-year old exclosure, where the basal cover of cane bluestem averaged 0.9% inside and 0% outside (P=0.043) .
Fire adaptations and plant response to fire:
Fire adaptations: Based on the studies available (as of 2011), it appears that cane bluestem sprouts from surviving root crowns following fire, since several studies report relatively unchanged abundance on burned and unburned sites [12,13,88]. Buried cane bluestem seeds, if present (see Seed banking), could survive fire , and cane bluestem recruitment on burned sites has been reported . The awns on fertile lemmas suggest that cane bluestem seeds could be transported by animals visiting burned areas. Although plants seem likely to survive fire, without more research it is difficult to predict the effects of fire season, fire severity, and fire frequency on cane bluestem's abundance and persistence.
Heat tolerance of seed: Controlled experiments indicate that buried cane bluestem seeds are likely to germinate after fire. In a laboratory study, germination of cane bluestem seeds was greater after 2 minutes of heating at 167 °F (75 °C) and 212 °F (100 °C) than without heating. In a companion field study, subsurface soil temperatures produced by prescribed fires were less than 212 °F (100 °C). For cane bluestem seeds that were not heated or were heated to 122 °F (50 °C) for 2 minutes in a drying oven, germination was a little less than 40%. After 2 minutes at 167 °F (75 °C) and 212 °F (100 °C), cane bluestem germination was around 70% and 50%, respectively. Germination failed when seeds were heated to 257 °F (125 °C) or more. The study reported temperatures observed during early May prescribed fires in desert grasslands or mesquite savannas in southern Arizona: Soil surface temperatures ranged from 212 to 482 °F (100-250 °C), and subsurface soil temperatures were less than 212 °F (100 °C). At the time of ignition, the air temperature was 82 °F (28 °C), winds were 3 to 6 miles (5-10 km)/h, and relative humidity was 10% to 12% .
Plant response to fire: Fire studies indicate that establishment of seedlings and survival of established plants are possible on burned sites; however, without more detailed fire studies it is not possible to indicate what fire conditions make establishment and survival most likely.
Recruitment: Cane bluestem was reported as "particularly abundant" on areas with exposed soils ; and following a "low-intensity" prescribed fire in Gila County, Arizona, cane bluestem recruitment was "notable". The fire occurred in June and failed to reduce the abundance of cactus apple and redberry juniper (Juniperus coahuilensis), which was the fire management objective. Details regarding cane bluestem establishment were lacking .
A field experiment indicated that cane bluestem establishment and at least short-term survival can occur on burned sites. Precipitation following germination may be the most important factor in seedling establishment and survival. The experiment compared establishment and survival on plots with various canopy manipulations and at various seeding dates. (Differences among treatments are shown in Table 2 above.) Unburned plots with some canopy cover had surface-soil water available an average of 0.5 to 1.5 days longer than burned plots, and yet the only significant differences between burned and control plots indicated that establishment conditions were better on burned than unburned plots (Table 4). Researchers suggested that postgermination precipitation affected establishment and survival more than treatment. Precipitation in 1992 was more consistent in July than August; precipitation in 1993 was more consistent in August and September than in June or July. In 1995, summer rainfall came late and extended the spring and early summer dry period. Mortality of seedlings from seed sown in 1994 was high .
|Table 4. Average density (seedlings/m²) of cane bluestem on burned plots by seeding date and growing season |
|Seeding date||Burned plots||Control plots|
|1st growing season (establishment)|
|June 1992||6.6 a||0.2 b|
|August 1992||0 a||0.6 a|
|June 1993||1.4 a||0 a|
|August 1993||18.0 a||9.0 b|
|August 1994||17.6||no data|
|2nd growing season (survival)|
|June 1992||3.6 a||0.4 b|
|August 1993||3.2||no data|
|August 1994||1.3||no data|
|Values within a row followed by different letters are significantly different (P<0.05).|
Postfire abundance changes: Several fire studies showed few or no differences between pre- and postfire or unburned and burned cane bluestem abundance. In coastal sage scrub in the Santa Monica Mountains of California, cane bluestem occurred with low cover before and in the 1st, 2nd, and even later years after fires in October or June . Cane bluestem density changes were minimal before and for 2 years after a mid-June prescribed fire in a semidesert shrub-grassland in southeastern Arizona (Table 5). The fire burned when dead fuel moisture was about 5%, air temperature was about 86 °F (30 °C), relative humidity was 13% to 16%, and winds were 5 to 22 miles (8-35 km)/h. The fire moved slowly, 3 to 13 feet (1-4 m)/minute, and produced flame heights of 2.6 to 4.6 feet (0.8-1.4 m). Heat release was 160 to 540 kW/m [12,13]. For a more detailed summary of this study, see the Research Project Summary of the work by Bock and Bock [12,13].
|Table 5. Mean density (stem/0.1 m²) of cane bluestem on burned and unburned sites evaluated before and after a prescribed fire in a semidesert shrub-grassland [12,13]|
|Prefire||Postfire year 1||Postfire year 2|
On most sites, cane bluestem cover is generally low (see Plant communities), so even small changes in cover can reflect large differences in the species' abundance on and appearance in a site. Production and frequency of cane bluestem were greater on burned than unburned savannas dominated by Texas live oak (Quercus fusiformis) but were similar in savannas dominated by post oak (Q. stellata). Fire temperatures and fuel consumption were less in the Texas live oak-dominated than the post oak-dominated savanna. The prescribed fire occurred on 1 February in the Kerr Wildlife Management Area in Texas. At the time of ignition, the air temperature was 55 °F (13 °C), relative humidity was 42% to 48%, and winds were 10 to 32 miles (16-52 km)/hour. Herbaceous fuel loads averaged 988 lb/acre, and fuel moisture averaged 20%. In the Texas live oak savanna, fire consumed about half of available herbaceous fuels (455 lb/acre). In the post oak savanna almost 60% of the herbaceous fuel (587 lb/acre) was consumed. In the Texas live oak savanna, soil surface temperatures were 138 °F (59 °C) at the base of trees and 300 °F (149 °C) in the grasses. In the post oak savanna, soil surface temperatures were about 400 °F (204 °C) regardless of the distance from trees. Production and frequency of cane bluestem on unburned and 6-month-old burned savanna sites is summarized in Table 6 . For a more detailed summary of this study, see the Research Project Summary of the work by Hutcheson and others .
|Table 6. Productivity and frequency of cane bluestem on burned and unburned plots in 2 savanna types in Kerr County, Texas |
|Savanna type||Texas live oak||Post oak|
Fires and grazing: In the one study evaluating fire effects in grazed and protected cane bluestem habitats, differences between cane bluestem cover on burned and unburned sites were greater on grazed than protected sites, and grazed sites appeared more productive than burned sites. Cover of cane bluestem was evaluated on burned, unburned, grazed, and ungrazed plots in a plains-mesa grassland in New Mexico's Animas Valley. The entire study area burned in a wildfire in 1993, before the construction of exclosures that excluded livestock but not native herbivores beginning in 1996. The exclosures protected grasses from livestock for 2 years before a May prescribed fire in 1998, which produced surface temperatures from 550 to at least 887 °F (288-475 °C). Cane bluestem cover in the different treatments is summarized in Table 7 :
|Table 7. Average cover (%) of cane bluestem on grazed and protected sites after 4 years of grazing protection and 2 years after a prescribed fire |
|Prefire (evaluated in 1998)||1.8||1.3|
|Burned (evaluated in 2000)||1.9||1.6|
|Unburned (evaluated in 2000)||2.9||1.7|
Repeated fires: Cane bluestem occurred on sites burned 1 to 6 times in 15 years on the Fort Huachuca Army Installation in Cochise County, Arizona. The relative importance of fire frequency or time since last fire could not be determined from this study. Fires occurred during the hot season, May to July. Cane bluestem cover was greatest (8%) on plots burned 3 times in 15 years, where the last fire was 4 to 6 years earlier. Its cover was 6% on plots burned once in 15 years, where the last fire was 6 to 8 years earlier. Cane bluestem cover was 2% on plots burned 5 times in 15 years, where the last fire was 2 years earlier. "Considerable decadence" of cane bluestem was noted on a plot last burned 8 years earlier. The researcher suggested that fire was useful in keeping midgrasses "healthy and vigorous" .FUELS AND FIRE REGIMES:
Based on the fire studies discussed above, cane bluestem is persistent on sites burned almost biennially and may be most "healthy and vigorous" on sites burned often . Cane bluestem is most common in semidesert grasslands and savannas where the average fire frequency can range from 7 to 100 years. For more about this, see the Fire Regime Table that summarizes information on the prevailing fire regimes in communities where cane bluestem may occur.FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Palatability and nutritional value: Palatability ratings for cane bluestem range from fair to excellent for pronghorn, horses, cattle, and domestic sheep [20,51]. According to Sampson and others , cane bluestem is more palatable to cattle and horses than to domestic sheep. Cane bluestem palatability is highest when foliage is green and young and decreases with drying and age [33,51,52].
On the Edwards Plateau of Texas, the nutritional composition of cane bluestem was reported from April through December. Protein, phosphorus, and digestible organic matter levels ranged from 3% to 9%, 0.03-0.15%, and 33% to 57%, respectively. For more details, see Huston and others . The chemical composition of cane bluestem collected from sites in northwestern Texas at different stages of development is presented by Fudge and Fraps .
Cover value: No information is available on this topic.VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
|Fire regime information on vegetation communities in which cane bluestem may occur. This information is taken from the LANDFIRE Rapid Assessment Vegetation Models , which were developed by local experts using available literature, local data, and/or expert opinion. This table summarizes fire regime characteristics for each plant community listed. The PDF file linked from each plant community name describes the model and synthesizes the knowledge available on vegetation composition, structure, and dynamics in that community. Cells are blank where information is not available in the Rapid Assessment Vegetation Model.|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Coastal sage scrub||Replacement||100%||50||20||150|
|Coastal sage scrub-coastal prairie||Replacement||8%||40||8||900|
|Surface or low||62%||5||1||6|
|California oak woodlands||Replacement||8%||120|
|Surface or low||91%||10|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Surface or low||15%||67|
|Desert grassland with shrubs and trees||Replacement||85%||12|
|Shortgrass prairie with shrubs||Replacement||80%||15||2||35|
|Shortgrass prairie with trees||Replacement||80%||15||2||35|
|Plains mesa grassland||Replacement||81%||20||3||30|
|Plains mesa grassland with shrubs or trees||Replacement||76%||20|
|Southwestern shrub steppe||Replacement||72%||14||8||15|
|Surface or low||15%||69||60||100|
|Southwestern shrub steppe with trees||Replacement||52%||17||10||25|
|Surface or low||25%||35||25||100|
|Interior Arizona chaparral||Replacement||100%||125||60||150|
|Madrean oak-conifer woodland||Replacement||16%||65||25|
|Surface or low||76%||14||1||20|
|Pinyon-juniper (mixed fire regime)||Replacement||29%||430|
|Surface or low||6%||>1,000|
|Pinyon-juniper (rare replacement fire regime)||Replacement||76%||526|
|Surface or low||4%||>1,000|
|Ponderosa pine/grassland (Southwest)||Replacement||3%||300|
|Surface or low||97%||10|
|Ponderosa pine-Gambel oak (southern Rockies and Southwest)||Replacement||8%||300|
|Surface or low||92%||25||10||30|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|Great Basin Grassland|
|Great Basin grassland||Replacement||33%||75||40||110|
|Mountain meadow (mesic to dry)||Replacement||66%||31||15||45|
|Great Basin Shrubland|
|Creosotebush shrublands with grasses||Replacement||57%||588||300||>1,000|
|Interior Arizona chaparral||Replacement||88%||46||25||100|
|Great Basin Woodland|
|Juniper and pinyon-juniper steppe woodland||Replacement||20%||333||100||>1,000|
|Surface or low||49%||135||100|
|Vegetation Community (Potential Natural Vegetation Group)||Fire severity*||Fire regime characteristics|
|Percent of fires||Mean interval
|South-central US Grassland|
|Southern shortgrass or mixed-grass prairie||Replacement||100%||8||1||10|
|Surface or low||93%||3||1||4|
|South-central US Shrubland|
|Southwestern shrub steppe||Replacement||76%||12|
|Shinnery oak-mixed grass||Replacement||96%||7|
|South-central US Woodland|
|Surface or low||91%||6|
|Oak woodland-shrubland-grassland mosaic||Replacement||11%||50|
|Surface or low||33%||17|
Replacement: Any fire that causes greater than 75% top removal of a vegetation-fuel type, resulting in general replacement of existing vegetation; may or may not cause a lethal effect on the plants.
Mixed: Any fire burning more than 5% of an area that does not qualify as a replacement, surface, or low-severity fire; includes mosaic and other fires that are intermediate in effects.
Surface or low: Any fire that causes less than 25% upper layer replacement and/or removal in a vegetation-fuel class but burns 5% or more of the area [41,58].
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