SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Bouteloua hirsuta: INTRODUCTORY


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Zlatnik, Elena. 1999. Bouteloua hirsuta. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].




Bouteloua hirsuta ssp. hirsuta (Featherly) J. Wipff & S.D. Jones [39]




hairy grama



The accepted scientific name of hairy grama is Bouteloua hirsuta Lag. [23,33,34,38,42].

Gould [32] identifies 2 varieties, B. hirsuta var. hirsuta, and B. hirsuta var. glandulosa (Cerv.) Gould [32,40].

Hairy grama hybridizes with tall grama (B. pectinata) [61].




No special status


Hairy grama is listed as critically imperiled (S1) in Missouri [48].


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Hairy grama is an important and prominent feature of the shortgrass prairies of the Great Plains [35]. It is widely distributed and less important from eastern South Dakota to Wisconsin and Illinois, south to New Mexico, Texas and Louisiana and into Mexico, west to southern Utah, Nevada, and southern California. The plant also appears as a disjunct population in Florida [19,79].


FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES31 Shinnery
FRES32 Texas savanna
FRES33 Southwestern shrubsteppe
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands


AL   AZ   AR   CA   CO   FL    IL   IA   KS   MI   MN    MS
MO   MT   NE   NV   NM   ND   OK   SD   TX   UT   WI    WY
AB   MB   ON   SK



 7 Lower Basin and Range
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


K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodlands
K027 Mesquite bosque
K044 Creosotebush-tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K057 Galleta-threeawn shrub-steppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrub-steppe
K059 TransPecos shrub savanna
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite-acacia savanna
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalograss
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalograss
K071 Shinnery
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K084 Cross Timbers
K085 Mesquite-buffalograss
K086 Juniper-oak savanna
K087 Mesquite-oak savanna


 67 Mohrs Oak
 68 Mesquite
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
242 Mesquite


207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
502 Grama-galleta
503 Arizona chaparral
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
509 Transition between oak-juniper woodland and mahogany-oak association
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
611 Blue grama-buffalograss
702 Black grama-alkali sacaton
703 Black grama-sideoats grama
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
708 Bluestem-dropseed
713 Grama-muhly-threeawn
716 Grama-feathergrass
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
718 Mesquite-grama
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat
727 Mesquite-buffalograss
728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia
729 Mesquite
730 Sand shinnery oak
732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
734 Mesquite-oak
802 Missouri prairie


In the Sandhills of Nebraska, hairy grama is a prominent species of upper dune slopes and ridges. Its cohabitants in these open, sparsely vegetated sites are prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), sand bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus), sunflower (Helianthus spp.), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), and leadplant (Amorpha canescens) [4,76].

At the southernmost extreme of the Great Plains tallgrass prairie, in north-central Texas, little bluestem dominates with big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), Indian ricegrass (Sorghastrum nutans), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), hairy grama, rough dropseed (Sporobolus asper), silver bluestem (Bothriochloa saccharoides), Texas wintergrass (Stipa leucotricha), and Texas cupgrass (Eriochloa sericea) [1].

In the Guadalupe Mountains of northern Texas, in the Chihuahua desert, hairy grama appears with blue grama, black grama (B. eriopoida), wolftail (Lycurus phleoides), curly leaf muhly (Muhlenbergia setifolia), New Mexico feathergrass (Stipa neomexicana), and blue threeawn (Aristida glauca), and the shrubs smooth-leaf sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum), feather dalea (Dalea formosa), and mariola (Parthenim incanum) [15].

In southern Texas, hairy grama appears as a sub-dominant in the little bluestem-trichloris (Trichloris spp.) association with mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) or oak (Quercus) spp., Texas prickly-pear (Opuntia linheimeri), little bluestem, trichloris, silver bluestem, big bluestem, plains bristlegrass (Setaria macrostachya), sideoats grama, Texas wintergrass, buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides), knotroot bristelgrass (Setaria geniculata), Indiangrass, eastern gramagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides), and big sandbur (Cenchrus myosuroides) [47].

In the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains of southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, Trans-Pecos Texas, and northern Mexico, hairy grama appears in savannas close to the Madrean evergreen woodland type. This type is dominated by several oak (Quercus spp.) and pine species (Pinus spp.) with wolftail, little bluestem, plains lovegrass (Eragrostis intermedia), blue grama, sideoats grama, tanglehead (Heteropogon contortus), green sprangletop (Leptochloa dubia), lupines (Lupinus spp.), brickelbushes (Brickelia spp.) sages (Salvia spp.), daleas (Dalea spp.), buckwheats (Eriogonum spp.), Louisiana sagewort (Artemisia ludoviciana), flatsedges (Cyperus spp.), Hibiscus spp., woodsorrels (Oxalis spp.), and beans (Phaseolus spp.) [13].

The pine savannah habitat type of western North Dakota features ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) with an understory of big and little bluestem, prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), stonyhills muhly (Muhlenbergia cuspidata), blue, hairy, and sideoats grama, and leadplant [29].

Habitat typings in which hairy grama appears as a community dominant include:

The flora and sandhills prairie communities of Arapaho Prairie, Arthur Country, Nebraska [43]
Some characteristics and uses of Arizona's major plant communities [58]
Vegetation of the Huachuca Mountains, Arizona [75]
Vegetation of the northern part of Cherry County, Nebraska [71]


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Although hairy grama is considered good quality forage [53], it is not of primary importance for livestock. In the Nebraska sandhills area, although it comprised 12.1% of vegetative cover, it was only 6.4% of the available forage. Its scattered growth pattern and short morphology make it less useful to cattle than other grass species [25]. It is not a high biomass producer [54].


Hairy grama has low palatability for livestock [67], in part due to the awn ("stinger") on the spike comb [52]. Use of hairy grama by pronghorn is low [14].


Hairy grama is a moderately nutritionally valuable forage [36].

In the Edwards Plateau region of central Texas, nutritional composition (%) of hairy grama in August was as follows [37]:

water   ash   cell wall   P      protein     organic matter
28      8     70          0.07   5           48


Native grass habitats including hairy grama are crucial for the survival of the lesser prairie-chicken in Kansas. These habitats are essential both for cover and foraging [3].


Establishing hairy grama from seed is difficult and rarely successful [11,64,67].


No entry


Hairy grama is generally considered to be an increaser under grazing pressure [2,6,7,25,45,67,78], although study results are mixed. Tomanek and Albertson [72] studied 3 different grazing intensities on 3 different types of sites in Kansas with similar soils and vegetation types-ridgeline, hillside, and rocky break. On all three sites, hairy grama was absent on the ungrazed site and had the highest percentage composition and basal cover on the heavily grazed site.

However, Canfield [17] in Arizona found seedling production, seedling survival, and plant survival of hairy grama all to be higher on ungrazed than grazed lands. The longevity of hairy grama on ungrazed range was 7 years, while few grazed plants survived as long as 4 years [17]. Canfield [16] also considered the presence of hairy grama in mesa rangelands in Arizona to be an indicator of good range quality. Reynolds and Martin [59] claim grazing hairy grama in the Southwest results in fewer seedlings. Fuhlendorf and Smeins [26] evaluated the impacts of grazing pressure on several grass species near Sonora, Texas. They concluded that hairy grama responds positively to reduced grazing pressure. Johnston [38] studied sand prairie community types in southern Texas. Hairy grama occurred in 67% of undisturbed sites evaluated, but in only 4% of grazed sites.

Hairy grama is less resistant to cattle grazing than blue grama [8].

On southern Arizona rangelands, mesquite (Prosopis spp.) is invading historical grassland sites of which hairy grama has been an important component. Proposed reasons for this invasion include the negative effects of grazing on perennial grass species, and the ability of mesquite seed to survive fire and to persist in the seedbank [53].


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Hairy grama is a densely tufted, warm-season, short-lived, perennial, native shortgrass. Culms are numerous, 8 to 16 inches (20-40 cm) tall and hairy [4,19,61]. In the northern part of its range and in areas with sufficient precipitation, hairy grama may form a continuous groundcover [75]; while in the drier, southern portions, the grasses are distinctly clumped [61].

Hairy grama has shallow, fibrous roots, which may allow it to take advantage better of intermittent, sparse precipitation during the warm growing season [4,56]. Biomass production of hairy grama positively correlates with growing season (April-August) precipitation [56]. At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in north-central New Mexico, the rooting depth of hairy grama averaged 41 inches (103 cm), with a range from 18 to 55 inches (46-137 cm) [24].

Hairy grama resists drought [67]. In Nebraska laboratory studies to assess the ability of prairie grasses to withstand drought, hairy grama was the 3rd most resistant species, after blue grama and buffalograss. Hairy grama suffered very little mortality under high temperatures, low water, and simulated hot winds (soil and atmospheric drought) [50].




Hairy grama usually reproduces vegetatively [65]. The plants are probably self-sterile [61].

In an evaluation of a Nebraska sandhills prairie seedbank, hairy grama was a prominent part of the aboveground species composition (13%), yet was rare or absent from seedbank germination trials [55]. In this study, the only seedlings to emerge were from seed chilled for 14 days at 37 to 41°Fahrenheit (3-5°C). Walther and Sexton [77] harvested seed from a Texas prairie dominated by hairy grama, little bluestem, and slim tridens (Tridens muticus). Despite its dominance in the stand, hairy grama seeds contributed only 1.9% of the seed weight of the harvested seeds. Germination rate for hairy grama after 14 days was only 3.8 %. A germination viability study of hairy grama after 20 years' uncontrolled storage resulted in 0% germination in Globe, Arizona [70].


Hairy grama is common in open plains, in partially shaded openings in woods and brush, on well-drained, usually rocky soils [32]. Hairy grama survives in some difficult sites, including dry sandy or sandy-loam soils, [19] and rocky hills [35]. The plant grows predominantly on rocky sites in Kansas [72]. Hairy grama does better in thin rocky soils in New Mexico than on better soils, where it gives way to blue grama [12].

In southeastern Arizona, hairy grama rarely dominates but is widespread. The plant occurs in all major habitats except for floodplains and washes, mostly on silty soils with much exposed rock [8]. Hairy grama prefers coarser soils than does blue grama [41]. On the Edwards Plateau, Texas, hairy grama is usually associated with stony-loamy clay soils [75].

Throughout its range, hairy grama is common in ridge sites with thin soils and droughty characteristics [56]. Although the plant is a subdominant or codominant on many habitat types, these harsh sites are one of the few types on which hairy grama dominates. In a southern Nebraska loess hills mixed-grass prairie, hairy grama occurs most commonly on limy and lowland sites, and less often on silty sites. Limy sites are calcareous uplands with 7-31% slope, and shallow, silt loam soils. These sites are quite dry, since soils have low water capacity and drainage is rapid. In contrast, the lowland sites are characterized by steep slopes but relatively high water holding capacity [60].

Hairy grama grows from 165 to 990 feet (50- 300m) in the Great Plains [32], and from 1,000 to 6,500 feet (300-1970 m) throughout the Southwest [42]. In the Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Texas, hairy grama is common between 5500 and 6,000 feet (1650-1800 m), on soils derived from eroded sandstone [15,51]. In Arizona and New Mexico, hairy grama is most commonly found from 4,000 to 6,500 feet (1212-1969 m), but occasionally lower [36,59].


In the Trans-Pecos region of Texas, hairy grama is a seral species on the feather bluestem-little bluestem-sideoats grama habitat type [14].

In North Dakota, hairy grama is a seral species of the bluestem tallgrass prairie [29].


In Nebraska, growth starts in early to mid-July [67]. Anthesis in eastern Nebraska occurs from the 4th week in July through the 3rd week in August [65].

In Texas, flowering occurs from May to mid-July [61].


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Tester [68] evaluated the response of oak savanna and prairie species to fire frequency in east-central Minnesota. Over 20 years, plants were subjected to prescribed fire in frequencies from 2 to 19 fires in that period. Percent cover of hairy grama was significantly (p=.041) positively correlated to increasing fire frequency. Please refer to FEIS reports on associated species such as little bluestem or mesquite for fire regime information.


Tussock graminoid


SPECIES: Bouteloua hirsuta

Studies on direct effects of fire on hairy grama are lacking. Fire probably top-kills hairy grama.


No entry


Most studies conclude that hairy grama is undamaged by fire, following a season or 2 of decreased production. Production of hairy grama was reduced for 1 or 2 growing seasons following prescribed fires during August, September, and October in south-central Oklahoma, but the authors concluded there was no long-term negative effect on hairy grama [21]. In the Nebraska sandhills, phytomass of hairy grama was significantly less (P<0.05) at the end of the growing season on sites burned the previous year than on unburned sites [49]. Bock and Bock [10] studied the effects of spring and fall prescribed burns in ponderosa pine communities in the southern Black Hills, at Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota. After 2 growing seasons, they found no significant difference (P>0.05) in the ground cover of hairy grama between control and burned plots. However, the plants on the control plots were significantly taller for the 2 years following burning.

In another study, Bock and Bock [9] compared short-term plant response to prescribed burning in a semi-desert shrub grassland in Arizona. The site included plains lovegrass, wolftail, threeawn species (Aristida spp.), sprucetop grama (Bouteloua chondrosioides), sideoats grama, shrubby false mallow (Malvastrum bicuspidatum), tansyleaf aster (Machaeranthera tanacetifolia), wait-a-minute bush (Mimosa biuncifera), velvet-pod mimosa (M. dysocarpa) and yerba de pasmo (Baccharis pteronioides). One year following the June burns, density of hairy grama was significantly less (P<.02) on burned than unburned plots. By the 2nd growing season, however, there was no longer a significant difference. This study was part of an extensive of body of research on fire effects in semidesert grassland, oak savanna, and Madrean oak woodlands of southeastern Arizona. See the Research Project Summary of this work for more information on burning conditions, fires, and fire effects on more than 100 species of plants, birds, small mammals, and grasshoppers.

In Arizona, hairy grama was evaluated for 2 seasons following a June wildfire. Fire appeared to have little or no effect on the density of the plant after two seasons, although density was reduced during the first growing season, compared to the control. After 2 seasons, density of hairy grama compared to other perennial grass species was greater than the control [80].

Annual burning appears to be particularly favorable to hairy grama. Annual burning appears to favor growth of warm-season grasses, while a longer mean fire interval favors cool-season grasses [30]. Anderson and others [2] burned 3 sites in Kansas annually for 10 years to evaluate the effects of fire on prairie species. The presence of hairy grama increased by 12-16% in early- and mid-spring burn treatments (from 3% in the control) and by 8% over the control on a late spring burn. Basal area, however, was not significantly different, although late spring burning slightly decreased the basal area of hairy grama. Collins and others [18] compared average cover of several species in response to annual burns, 4-year burns, and no burns. Cover of hairy grama was higher (4.6%) on the annually burned site than on the other 2 (both at 0.2%).

Dokken and Hulbert [20] looked at prairie communities in Kansas that had burned 3 out of 4 years as part of the management plan. They evaluated hairy grama density on plots that were withheld from burning for 1 and 3 years. On shallow soils (20 to 100 cm deep, cherty silt loam or cherty silty clay loam), stem density was significantly less after 3 years without burning, but on deep soils (silty clay loam), there was no significant difference.

Hairy grama appears to be less affected by fall or winter than spring burns. In Kansas, annual burning in November or March increased cover and frequency of hairy grama, while late April burning, 2- and 4-year burns, and not burning all resulted in lower cover and frequency [31]. However, April prescribed burns in Wind Cave National Park, South Dakota, resulted in increased cover of grama species [63]. Worcester [81] found no significant difference, although a slight increase in productivity occurred from pre- to postfire yields of gramas (blue and hairy) on prescribed burns in Wind Cave National Park, 1 year after May and June burns [81].

Three spring burns, on 20 March, 10 April, and 1 May all increased relative percentages of hairy grama under moderate grazing, compared to an unburned site in Kansas. Of the 3 burns, the March burn increased relative cover the most [45].

In redberry juniper (Juniperus pinchotii) rangelands in Texas, hairy grama occurred significantly less in a 4-year-old burn site than in an 8-year-old and an unburned site [46].

Following prescribed burns in the tallgrass Konza Prairie in Kansas, hairy grama was more prevalent (in terms of percentage cover) in the early years following fire and became less important as other species recovered [30].


No entry


Below average winter and spring precipitation can be particularly damaging to hairy grama's ability to recover following fire [63].

Bouteloua hirsuta: References

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2. Anderson, Kling L.; Smith, Ed F.; Owensby, Clenton E. 1970. Burning bluestem range. Journal of Range Management. 23: 81-92. [323]

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5. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]

6. Bock, Carl E.; Bock, Jane H. 1993. Cover of perennial grasses in southeastern Arizona in relation to livestock grazing. [Journal name unknown]. 7(2): 371-377. [22152]

7. Bock, Carl E.; Bock, Jane H. 1998. Factors controlling the structure and function of desert grasslands: a case study from southeastern Arizona. In: Tellman, Barbara; Finch, Deborah M.; Edminster, Carl; Hamre, Robert, eds. The future of arid grasslands: identifying issues, seeking solutions: Proceedings; 1996 October 9-13; Tucson, AZ. Proceedings RMRS-P-3. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station: 33-44. [29257]

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10. Bock, Jane H.; Bock, Carl E. [n.d.]. Some effects of fire on vegetation and wildlife in ponderosa pine forests of the southern Black Hills. Final Report. Contracts CX-1200-9-B034, CX-1200-0-B018, CX-1200-1-B022; Grant No. RM-80-105 GR. Unpublished report on file with: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Lab, Missoula, MT. 58 p. [479]

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31. Gibson, David J. 1989. Hulbert's study of factors effecting botanical composition of tallgrass prairie. In: Bragg, Thomas B.; Stubbendieck, James, eds. Prairie pioneers: ecology, history and culture: Proceedings, 11th North American prairie conference; 1988 August 7-11; Lincoln, NE. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska: 115-133. [14029]

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