Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Hierochloe odorata


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Walsh, Roberta A. 1994. Hierochloe odorata. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : HIEODO SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : HIOD COMMON NAMES : sweet grass TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of sweet grass is Hierochloe odorata (L.) Beauv. [12,14,15]. It is in the family Poaceae. There are no currently accepted infrataxa. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Sweet grass is circumboreal [1,18] and is common above 40 degrees north latitude in Asia, Europe, and North America [20]. In North America, sweet grass occurs from Newfoundland to Alaska [7,15,27]. Its range extends south to New Jersey and west to Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and northern California [10,12,14,19]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES10 White - red - jack pine FRES11 Spruce - fir FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES15 Oak - hickory FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood FRES18 Maple - beech - birch FRES19 Aspen - birch FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES24 Hemlock - Sitka spruce FRES25 Larch FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands FRES39 Prairie FRES41 Wet grasslands STATES : AK AZ CA CO CT ID IL IN IA ME MA MI MN MT NV NH NJ NM NY ND OH OR PA RI SD UT VT WA WI WY AB BC MB NF NT NS ON PE PQ SK YT BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : 1 Northern Pacific Border 2 Cascade Mountains 4 Sierra Mountains 5 Columbia Plateau 6 Upper Basin and Range 8 Northern Rocky Mountains 9 Middle Rocky Mountains 10 Wyoming Basin 11 Southern Rocky Mountains 13 Rocky Mountain Piedmont 15 Black Hills Uplift 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K001 Spruce - cedar - hemlock forest K002 Cedar - hemlock - Douglas-fir forest K003 Silver fir - Douglas-fir forest K004 Fir - hemlock forest K005 Mixed conifer forest K010 Ponderosa shrub forest K011 Western ponderosa forest K012 Douglas-fir forest K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest K015 Western spruce - fir forest K017 Black Hills pine forest K020 Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest K021 Southwestern spruce - fir forest K025 Alder - ash forest K026 Oregon oakwoods K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026 K047 Fescue - oatgrass K050 Fescue - wheatgrass K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass K052 Alpine meadows and barren K063 Foothills prairie K067 Wheatgrass - bluestem - needlegrass K073 Northern cordgrass prairie K074 Bluestem prairie K081 Oak savanna K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100 K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest K094 Conifer bog K095 Great Lakes pine forest K096 Northeastern spruce - fir forest K098 Northern floodplain forest K099 Maple - basswood forest K100 Oak - hickory forest K101 Elm - ash forest K102 Beech - maple forest K106 Northern hardwoods K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest SAF COVER TYPES : 1 Jack pine 5 Balsam fir 12 Black spruce 13 Black spruce - tamarack 14 Northern pin oak 15 Red pine 16 Aspen 19 Gray birch - red maple 20 White pine - northern red oak - red maple 21 Eastern white pine 22 White pine - hemlock 23 Eastern hemlock 24 Hemlock - yellow birch 25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch 26 Sugar maple - basswood 27 Sugar maple 30 Red spruce - yellow birch 32 Red spruce 33 Red spruce - balsam fir 34 Red spruce - Fraser fir 35 Paper birch - red spruce - balsam fir 38 Tamarack 39 Black ash - American elm - red maple 52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak 53 White oak 55 Northern red oak 57 Yellow-poplar 58 Yellow-poplar - eastern hemlock 59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak 60 Beech - sugar maple 61 River birch - sycamore 62 Silver maple - American elm 63 Cottonwood 201 White spruce 202 White spruce - paper birch 203 Balsam poplar 204 Black spruce 205 Mountain hemlock 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 207 Red fir 208 Whitebark pine 210 Interior Douglas-fir 211 White fir 212 Western larch 213 Grand fir 217 Aspen 221 Red alder 222 Black cottonwood - willow 223 Sitka spruce 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 231 Port-Orford-cedar 233 Oregon white oak 235 Cottonwood - willow 251 White spruce - aspen 252 Paper birch 253 Black spruce - white spruce 254 Black spruce - paper birch 244 Pacific ponderosa pine - Douglas-fir SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Sweet grass usually grows among other grasses or shrubs; it is seldom found in pure stands [5]. Sweet grass occurs in north-central Alberta in the wheatgrass (Agropyron spp., sensu latu)-sedge (Carex spp.) community in low, moist areas. Associated species include slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus), slough sedge (Carex atherodes), false-melic (Schizachne purpurascens), brome (Bromus spp.), reed grass (Calamagrostis spp.), meadow sedge (Carex praticola), and American vetch (Vicia americana). This community is within the wheatgrass-needlegrass (Stipa spp.) association [23]. Associates of sweet grass in the meadow stage of succession on glacial gravel outwash terraces in south-central Alaska include boreal wildrye (Leymus innovatus), altai fescue (Festuca altaica), bluegrass (Poa spp.), Sierra larkspur (Delphinium glaucum), monkshood (Aconitum delphinifolium), and northern goldenrod (Solidago multiradiata). A nearly continuous moss mat, primarily of mountain fern moss (Hylocomium splendens), grows under this vegetation [32]. Associates of sweet grass in a meadow on the banks of the Churchill River on the Hudson Bay Lowlands in northeastern Manitoba include red fescue (Festuca rubra), alkali grass (Puccinellia paupercula), aster (Aster puniceus var. firmus), bittercress (Cardamine pratensis), mud sedge (Carex limosa), parnassia (Parnassia multiseta), lomatogonium (Lomatogonium rotatum), and plantain (Plantago maritima). Sweet grass is one of the most important grasses of this community [26].


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Sweet grass produces very little forage [20]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Sweet grass may be useful for soil stabilization. It spreads rapidly, and provides cover against erosion. It binds soil with dense root and rhizome development [20]. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Dried sweet grass foliage is fragrant because of its coumarin content [10] and is used as incense and in making perfume [5]. The long leaves of sterile shoots are used by Native Americans in making baskets [13,17,19,33]. Sweet grass has religious significance to some Native American peoples [5]. Sweet grass tea was used for coughs and sore throats, to treat chapping and windburn, and as an eyewash. It was strewn before church doors on saints' days in northern Europe [5]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sweet grass does not have dense enough growth for turf [20].


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Sweet grass is a native, rhizomatous perennial grass [7,12,34]. Rhizomes are slender and creeping [7,15]. Culms are hollow, erect [11], and 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) tall [9,12,15,16]; they arise from among the dead foliage of the previous year [7,22]. Cauline leaves are few and short; leaves of sterile shoots are 4 to 12 inches (10-30 cm) long [11,12]. The inflorescence is an open pyramidal panicle 1.6 to 4.7 inches (4-12 cm) long, with slender branches [12,15,22]. Spikelets are three-flowered [22,34]; lemmas are awnless [7,9]. The fruit is a caryopsis [22]. Rhizomes and roots form a dense mat beneath the soil surface [20]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Sweet grass spreads vigorously [9] by creeping rhizomes which are often fairly deep [15,22]. It also reproduces by seed [12,22]. However, sweetgrass is largely infertile [34]; it produces relatively few seedheads, and these contain few seeds [20]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Sweet grass occurs in wet meadows [7,11,15,33], low prairies [22], the edges of sloughs and marshes [11], bogs [15], shaded streambanks [10], lakeshores [34], and cool mountain canyons [10]. Sweet grass grows on moist, heavy soil near the upper areas of the tidal marshes around the coast of Nova Scotia [27]. It occurs on granular calcareous soil from glacial river deposits on the Churchill River estuary in northeastern Manitoba [26]. In northeastern Alberta, sweet grass occurs on well-drained loamy soil with heavy clay subsoil; pH is 4.7 near the surface and increases with depth [25]. It occurs on coarse river gravel terraces covered by a 2-inch (5-cm) layer of organic material (pH 6.0) along the McKinley River in south-central Alaska [32]. Sweet grass has been reported at the following elevations: Feet Meters Alaska 730-3,281 223-1,000 [18,32] Arizona 7,000 2,134 [19] California 6,000 1,830 [14] Colorado 7,500-11,500 2,286-3,505 [12] Utah 6,990-11,485 2,130-3,500 [34] SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Sweet grass is usually found in mid-successional communities. It can withstand some soil disturbance. Sweet grass was a major component of the meadow zone just above high water on the Churchill River in northeastern Manitoba. This was the earliest closed-cover successional community on the flats. Sweet grass was not present in later successional zones [26]. Sweet grass was a minor component of undisturbed and disturbed dry grassland sites in northeastern Alberta. Disturbance by vehicle traffic and bison had caused soil compaction and erosion [25]. Sweet grass was a component of a wheatgrass-sedge community in north-central Alberta which had succeeded a marsh community [23]. Sweet grass was a minor component of the meadow stage of succession on gravel outwash terraces in south-central Alaska. It was not present in earlier or later stages [32]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : In spring, creeping rhizomes of sweet grass produce inconspicuous fruiting culms with leaves that are few and short [5]. Somewhat later, long leaves develop from separate sterile basal off-shoots [27]. Culms shrivel soon after flowering [7]. In southwestern Saskatchewan, sweet grass first flowered, on the average, on June 2 (recorded over 6 years), the earliest date being May 17, and the latest June 22. The mean number of days in flower was 28 [3]. Sweet grass is among the earliest flowering of Alaskan grasses. Seedheads are formed in autumn and remain small and hidden through winter in the new growing shoots, which elongate the following spring. Seedheads appear early in May, almost as soon as the grass begins spring growth. Anthesis occurs near May 20, and seed is ripe from late July to early August [20]. The following sweet grass flowering dates have been reported: Alaska late May [20] Arizona June-July [19] Michigan spring [33] North Dakota May [4,28] South Dakota late April-July [22] Great Plains May-July [11] Southwestern United States April [7] Nova Scotia early May [27] Saskatchewan June [3]


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Sweetgrass has creeping rhizomes which are often fairly deep [15,22] and which may sprout after aerial portions are burned. Culms arise from among dead foliage of the preceding year [7]. This foliage may protect basal buds from fire damage in the spring when moisture content of dead foliage is high. But in fall, it is more likely that the buds would be damaged by heat produced when the dried foliage burns. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Rhizomatous herb, rhizome in soil


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Sweet grass culms and leaves are probably killed by fire during the growing season. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : NO-ENTRY DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Sweet grass is a member of some meadow communities succeeded by forest in the absence of disturbance. Fire exclusion from these communities may favor other species over sweet grass.


SPECIES: Hierochloe odorata
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Dry grassland plant communities in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100(4): 526-532. [4030] 26. Ritchie, J. C. 1957. The vegetation of northern Manitoba. II. A prisere on the Hudson Bay lowlands. Ecology. 38(3): 429-435. [10552] 27. Roland, A. E.; Smith, E. C. 1969. The flora of Nova Scotia. Halifax, NS: Nova Scotia Museum. 746 p. [13158] 28. Stevens, O. A. 1956. Flowering dates of weeds in North Dakota. North Dakota Agricultural Experiment Station Bimonthly Bulletin. 18(6): 209-213. [5168] 29. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 7 p. [20090] 30. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1994. Plants of the U.S.--alphabetical listing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 954 p. [23104] 31. U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [n.d.]. NP Flora [Data base]. Davis, CA: U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Survey. [23119] 32. Viereck, Leslie A. 1966. Plant succession and soil development on gravel outwash of the Muldrow Glacier, Alaska. Ecological Monographs. 36(3): 181-199. [12484] 33. Voss, Edward G. 1972. Michigan flora. Part I. Gymnosperms and monocots. Bloomfield Hills, MI: Cranbrook Institute of Science; Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Herbarium. 488 p. [11471] 34. Welsh, Stanley L.; Atwood, N. Duane; Goodrich, Sherel; Higgins, Larry C., eds. 1987. A Utah flora. Great Basin Naturalist Memoir No. 9. Provo, UT: Brigham Young University. 894 p. [2944]