Index of Species Information
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION :
Walsh, Roberta A. 1994. Bromus vulgaris. 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/ .
SCS PLANT CODE :
COMMON NAMES :
The currently accepted scientific name of Columbia brome is Bromus
vulgaris (Hook.) Shear [4,21,22,32]. It is in the family Poaceae.
The following varieties are accepted:
B. v. var. vulgaris 
B. v. var. eximius Shear [21,22]
B. v. var. robustus Shear 
LIFE FORM :
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS :
No special status
OTHER STATUS :
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION :
Columbia brome occurs from British Columbia south to the San Francisco
Bay area and the central Sierra Nevada in California ; its range
extends east to southwestern Alberta, western Montana, Wyoming, and Utah
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES23 Fir - spruce
FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES37 Mountain meadows
CA HI ID MT OR UT WA WY AB BC
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :
K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest
K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest
K004 Fir - hemlock forest
K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K007 Red fir forest
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest
K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K025 Alder - ash forest
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K047 Fescue - oatgrass
K063 Foothills prairie
SAF COVER TYPES :
206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir
207 Red fir
210 Interior Douglas-fir
211 White fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
218 Lodgepole pine
221 Red alder
224 Western hemlock
225 Western hemlock - Sitka spruce
226 Coastal true fir - hemlock
227 Western redcedar - western hemlock
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
230 Douglas-fir - western hemlock
233 Oregon white oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
247 Jeffrey pine
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES :
Columbia brome is listed as an understory dominant in the following
The phytosociology of some vine maple communities in the Mary's Peak
Columbia brome is listed as diagnostic for the western sword
fern-mycelis-salmonberry (Polystichum spp.-Mycelis [Lactuca] spp.-Rubus
spectabilis) subassociation in the following publication:
Relations between site index, salal, plant communities, and sites
in coastal Douglas-fir ecosystems 
Besides those listed in the Kuchler Plant Associations, common
associates of Columbia brome include huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.),
willow (Salix spp.), manzanita (Arctostaphylos spp.), honeysuckle
(Lonicera spp.), swamp currant (Ribes lacustre), sticky currant (Ribes
viscosissimum), prince's pine (Chimaphila umbellata), Saskatoon
serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) , western coneflower (Rudbeckia
occidentalis), bracted strawberrry (Fragaria vesca var. bracteata) ,
sweetroot (Osmorhiza spp.), Hooker fairybells (Disporum hookeri), and
western goldthread (Coptis occidentalis) .
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE :
In California, Columbia brome is valuable livestock forage on both
winter and summer ranges, particularly at higher elevations, although
the greatest Columbia brome herbage production is at intermediate
elevations. It is almost always found in mixed stands with other
grasses and forbs .
Elk grazed Columbia brome in clearcuts of western hemlock/pachistima
(Tsuga heterophylla/Pachistima myrsinites) and grand fir (Abies
grandis)/pachistima in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Columbia
brome was only grazed in the spring; it had average relative cover of
4.5 percent, but was grazed at 4.9 percent average use. Columbia brome
was not utilized in summer or fall, though it had average relative cover
of 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent in those seasons. Use was not measured
in winter .
In California, palatability of Columbia brome is ranked high for
livestock, being second only to California brome (Bromus carinatus) .
NUTRITIONAL VALUE :
COVER VALUE :
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES :
OTHER USES AND VALUES :
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
Bromus vulgaris is considered nonweedy .
Columbia brome can be controlled with glyphosate .
Columbia brome response to grazing was studied in Rocky Mountain
Douglas-fir/ninebark (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca/Physocarpus
malvaceus) habitat on the University of Idaho experimental forest in
northern Idaho. Columbia brome production was 1.8 pounds per acre (2
kg/ha) in ungrazed areas and 0.9 pounds per acre (1 kg/ha) in grazed
areas. However, Columbia brome cover and frequency were slightly higher
in grazed stands: Average cover was 1.3 percent in grazed and 0.7
percent in ungrazed areas. Average frequency was 24.0 percent in grazed
and 19.3 percent in ungrazed areas [45,46].
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS :
Columbia brome is a native perennial bunchgrass [8,18,41]. Culms are
slender, hollow, and 18 to 47 inches [45-120 cm) tall [20,21,36]. Leaf
blades are flat . The inflorescence is an open panicle ;
branches are slender and spreading to drooping . Spikelets are
five- to seven-flowered. Lemma are awned [20,32]. The fruit is a
RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM :
REGENERATION PROCESSES :
Columbia brome sprouts from perennating buds at the bases of culms .
It also reproduces by seed .
Columbia brome occurs in soil seedbanks but may not be plentiful. In a
seedbank study in grand fir/pachistima habitat in the Blue Mountains of
northeastern Oregon, Columbia brome occurred in two of the three mixed
conifer stands investigated. Forest floor core samples were taken to
test for seed germination. Soil from a stand in which Columbia brome
occurred with 0.6 percent cover and 26 percent frequency produced no
Columbia brome seedlings from any soil layer. Soil from a stand in
which Columbia brome occurred with cover of 5.1 percent and frequency of
54 percent produced two Columbia brome seedlings from the litter and
humus layer and none from mineral soil. Soil samples from this stand
produced 338 seedlings of 30 species .
SITE CHARACTERISTICS :
Columbia brome is found on open or forested sites from sea level to
lower subalpine mountain habitats [18,27] in moist to dry conditions
[8,42]. It grows in shaded or open woods, on moist or dry streambanks
, in seepage areas , rocky ravines , and on dry rocky slopes
Columbia brome grows in soils of many types.
In northern Idaho near the St. Joe River, Columbia brome occurs in soils
with volcanic ash surface and sandy loam subsurface . In Latah
County, Idaho, it grows in deep, moderately well-drained loessal soil
. In the Coast Ranges of west-central Oregon, Columbia brome is
found on soils of clay and silty clay loam; available moisture is high
. In the Crater Lake area of Oregon it occurs on deep, well-drained
soils of volcanic origin with loam surface layers and clayey loam
subsoils . In Linn County, Oregon, Columbia brome is found on gray
basalt soils from lava flows . In the Blue Mountains of
northeastern Oregon occurs on soils which include volcanic ash and are
at least 53 inches (135 cm) deep . Columbia brome in southwestern
British Columbia is found on acidic loamy sand to sandy loam. The soil
nutrient regime is rich to very rich .
Columbia brome generally occurs in climates with cool, wet winters and
warm, dry summers . Snowpack often insulates it from extreme cold
Columbia brome presence in seral shrub communities in northern Idaho was
evaluated for correlation with several environmental variables.
Frequency increased with elevation, from 16 percent at the lowest site
measured (3,000 feet [914 m]) to 38 percent at the highest site (4,600
feet [1,402 m]). There was no significant correlation between frequency
and north or south exposure . On the other hand Columbia brome was
an indicator of north slopes and increasing elevation in the Blue
Mountains of eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington .
Columbia brome is reported at the following elevations:
California 0-6,234 0-1,900 [7,20,32]
Idaho 2,500-5,500 762-1,675 [3,15,19,29,38]
Montana 4,700-6,000 1,433-1,829 [8,44]
Oregon 0-6,500 0-1,981 [1,17,30,40,41]
Utah 6,500 1,981 
Washington 1,815-6,140 550-1,870 
Wyoming 8,000 2,438 
British Columbia 689 210 
SUCCESSIONAL STATUS :
Facultative Seral Species
Columbia brome occurs in open or shaded habitats  in many
successional stages. It is found on clearcuts [3,19], in seral
shrubfields [19,31], and in mature undisturbed shaded forests
Columbia brome occurs on seasonally disturbed gravel bars in the
Flathead River, northwestern Montana .
Columbia brome occurs with red alder (Alnus rubra) in the Alsea River
drainage of the Oregon Coast Ranges. Red alder is a pioneer species
whose establishment within the study area requires disturbance .
Columbia brome occurred in grand fir/wild ginger (Asarum caudatum)
habitat in northern Idaho with 20 percent cover 0 to 30 years after a
low soil displacement clearcut which was seeded with grass. Some seed
used on the site probably contained Columbia brome . Columbia brome
occurred with 1 to 3 percent cover in other clearcuts of low and high
soil displacement where grasses were not seeded [15,24].
Columbia brome in seral shrub communities in northern Idaho reached
highest frequencies under conditions of partial shading .
Columbia brome in grand fir/pachistima habitat in the Clearwater
Mountains of north-central Idaho was studied for possible correlation
between presence and overstory structure. Graminoid production was not
significantly correlated with any of the measured overstory parameters.
In undisturbed forest, Columbia brome had a constancy of 90 percent,
canopy coverage of 7 percent, and frequency of 25 percent; it
contributed more to understory production than any other graminoid.
Soil nutrient status was probably the major factor determining growth
response of Columbia brome under these shaded conditions .
SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT :
Columbia brome phenology at Nash Crater lava flows in Linn County,
Oregon, was recorded from the middle of May to the last of September
1949. Columbia brome began flowering the second week of June and
completed flowering the last week of June, when fruiting began; fruiting
continued through the first week of September .
In California, Columbia brome flowers and fruits from May to August
. In western Oregon and southwestern Washington, it flowers and
fruits from June through August [18,41].
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS :
Columbia brome has basal culm buds which may sprout after aerial
portions are burned [18,41]. If thick tufts form, they may protect the
basal buds from fire damage.
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT :
Columbia brome culms are probably killed by fire.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT :
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE :
Columbia brome usually decreases  or is neutral [38,44] in response
to fire. However, occasional increases occur [9,12].
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE :
Several studies of the effects of logging and burning include
information on Columbia brome response.
In a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest in northern Idaho, Columbia
brome decreased after fire . See FIRE CASE STUDY.
In seral shrub communities in the cedar-hemlock (Thuja-Tsuga spp.) zone
of northern Idaho, Columbia brome was significantly more frequent in
unburned stands than in broadcast burned stands. Presence of Columbia
brome in stands with different disturbance histories was as follows :
Closed stand, no disturbance 47
Logged, no Burn 38
Logged, piled and burned 32
Single broadcast burn 16
Multiple broadcast burns 21
Columbia brome was considered neutral with respect to fire in mixed
forests of Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir, grand fir, and western redcedar
(Thuja plicata) on the Priest River Experimental Forest in northern
Idaho. Columbia brome was present in plots that had been logged and
then given treatments of no fire, a moist fuels underburn in June 1989,
or a dry fuels underburn in September 1989. Pretreatment cover
estimates were made during the summer before logging began.
Posttreatment cover estimates were made for both fire and no fire units
in the summer of the year after the fires. Columbia brome was present
with the following percent cover :
Moist Fuels Dry Fuels
No Fire Fire Fire
pre- post- pre- post- pre- post-
logging fire logging fire logging fire
1.9 0.2 1.7 0.2 1.5 0.1
Vegetation in plots on burned slash piles in the Mission Mountains in
northwestern Montana was compared with vegetation in plots adjacent to
the slash piles which had not burned. Each logging site had 40 burned
and 40 unburned quadrats. The slash piles had been burned 2 to 15 years
(average 8.8 years) before evaluation. Average frequency of Columbia
brome was 5.6 percent higher on burned plots than on unburned plots, but
this change was not statistically significant; Columbia brome was
considered neutral with respect to fire .
Columbia brome in the Swan Valley of northwestern Montana was apparently
favored in mixed coniferous stands which had been logged, logged and
burned, or burned only. Columbia brome occurred in undisturbed forests
with presence of 36 percent and cover of 2 percent. In treated plots
(all treatments considered together), Columbia brome had presence of 46
percent and cover of 3 percent. Percent presence and average percent
cover were based on plots of occurrence .
Columbia brome was also favored by disturbance in grand fir/pachistima
and grand fir/twinflower (Linnaea borealis) forests in the Blue
Mountains of northeastern Oregon. Stands were logged and broadcast
burned to reduce slash. Columbia brome germination and establishment
was enhanced in those areas with deeply churned soils and heavily burned
For further information on Columbia brome response to fire in a ponderosa
pine community, see Fire Case Studies. From the same Fire Study, the Research
Project Summary Understory recovery after low- and high-intensity fires in northern
Idaho ponderosa pine forests provides information on prescribed fire and
postfire response of Columbia brome and other ponderosa pine plant community
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION :
Walsh, Roberta A., compiler. 1994. Effects of low- and high-intensity understory burning
on Columbia brome in Benewah County, Idaho. In: Bromus vulgaris. 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/ .
Armour, Charles D.; Bunting, Stephen C.; Neuenschwander, Leon F. 1984. Fire
intensity effects on the understory in ponderosa pine forests. Journal of Range
Management. 37(1): 44-48. .
SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION :
STUDY LOCATION :
Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation, Benewah County, Idaho
PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY :
Prefire vegetation was dominated by seral stands of ponderosa pine
(Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa) with Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii
var. glauca) and an understory of shrubs and perennial graminoids.
Prominent shrubs included oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor), ninebark
(Physocarpus malvaceus), chokecherry (Prunus virginiana), baldhip rose
(Rosa gymnocarpa), and common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus).
Prominent graminoids included Columbia brome (Bromus vulgaris),
bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicatum), pinegrass
(Calamagrostis rubescens), blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus), and Idaho
fescue (Festuca idahoensis).
TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE :
Phenological state of Columbia brome was not given. Since the fires
were conducted in the fall of 1978 it was probably approaching
SITE DESCRIPTION :
Elevation of the study area is approximately 2,887 feet (880 m) on
gently rolling hills. Average annual precipitation is 22 inches (560
mm), the majority of which falls from October to March. A 3.9-inch
(10-cm) layer of volcanic ash from the May 18, 1980, eruption of Mount
St. Helens was present on the soil. The study area had been
selectively logged three times at 10-year intervals, the last in 1977.
The sites had not burned for 44 to 62 years. Prior to fire suppression,
the sites had a mean fire return interval of approximately 22 years.
Grazing by domestic livestock had not occurred on the sites for at least
FIRE DESCRIPTION :
Three fire treatments were employed: unburned control, low-intensity,
and high-intensity fires. Three areas of similar stand history and
composition were each subdivided into nine 0.5 to 2.47 acre (0.2-1.0 ha)
units and burned under under varying temperature, fuel moisture, and
relative humidity conditions, resulting in fires of varying intensity.
Three replications of unburned, low-, and high-intensity treatments were
sampled within each location. Fireline intensity ranged from 25 to 194
kcal/m-s on low-intensity sites; it ranged from 30 to 3,034 kcal/m-s on
high-intensity sites. Flame length averaged 2.95 feet (0.9 m), with a
range of 0.33 to 5.58 feet (0.1- 1.7 m), for both fire intensities.
More duff was consumed on high- than on low-intensity sites. The
average depth of duff on the unburned sites was 2.6 inches (6.6 cm); the
depth on low-intensity sites after burning was 1.6 inches (4.0 cm); the
depth on high-intensity sites was 0.5 inches (1.3 cm).
FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES :
Columbia brome decreased after fire. The reduction was the result of
prolonged duff smoldering which destroyed rhizomes.
Mean canopy cover and frequency of Columbia brome after fire treatments
Control Low High
Cover 0.7 a 0.3 b 0.3 b
Frequency 15.5 a 7.7 b 4.6 b
1 2 3
Cover 0.5 a 0.7 a 0.2 b
Frequency 9.1 b 14.5 a 4.2 c
Means within a row followed by the same letters are not significantly
There was an unexpected rise in Columbia brome frequency from 1979 to
1980 in all treatments. This was probably due to the volcanic ash layer
resulting from the Mount St. Helens eruption rather than to any fire
effects. The ash cap acted as a moisture barrier, retarding
evaporation. By 1981 this cap had broken up.
FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS :
The response of Columbia brome to fire appeared to vary with the amount
of duff reduction, regardless of fireline intensity. High-intensity
fires were conducted when fuels were drier than they were for
low-intensity fires. The reduction of Columbia brome was the result of
rhizome destruction. In order to preserve as much Columbia brome cover
on a site as possible, fires should be conducted when the duff is moist.
SPECIES: Bromus vulgaris
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