SPECIES: Koeleria macrantha

Koeleria macrantha


SPECIES: Koeleria macrantha
Simonin, Kevin. 2000. Koeleria macrantha. 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/ [].


Koeleria cristata (L.) Pers. [47,55,56]
Koeleria gracilis Pers.
Koeleria nitida Nutt.
Koeleria pyramidata (Lam.) Beauv. [9]


prairie Junegrass

The currently accepted scientific name of prairie Junegrass is Koeleria macrantha (Ledeb.) J. A. Schultes (Poaceae) [9,53].


No special status

Prairie Junegrass is endangered in Ohio [85] and Kentucky [64] and critically impaired in Louisiana [70].


Koeleria macrantha

Prairie Junegrass occurs from Alberta south to California and east to New Foundland and Arkansas [47,53,55,56].

FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES26 Lodgepole Pine
FRES28 Western Hardwoods
FRES29 Sagebrush
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
FRES42 Annual grasslands




1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
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

K005 Mixed conifer forest
K010 Ponderosa shrub forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K018 Pine-Douglas-fir forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K023 Juniper-pinyon woodland
K024 Juniper steppe woodland
K026 Oregon oakwoods
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K030 California oakwoods
K031 Oak-juniper woodland
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K033 Chaparral
K034 Montane chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K048 California steppe
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K058 Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe
K060 Mesquite savanna
K061 Mesquite-acacia savanna
K062 Mesquite-live oak savanna
K063 Foothills prairie
K064 Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass
K065 Grama-buffalo grass
K066 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
K067 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
K068 Wheatgrass-grama-buffalo grass
K069 Bluestem-grama prairie
K070 Sandsage-bluestem prairie
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K081 Oak savanna
K082 Mosaic of K074 and K100
K084 Cross Timbers
K085 Mesquite-buffalo grass
K086 Juniper-oak savanna
K087 Mesquite-oak savanna
K088 Fayette prairie
K100 Oak-hickory forest

14 Northern pin oak
40 Post oak-blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
44 Chestnut oak
46 Eastern redcedar
66 Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs (shin) oak
68 Mesquite
110 Black oak
209 Bristlecone pine
210 Interior Douglas-fir
218 Lodgepole pine
219 Limber pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
231 Port-Orford-cedar
233 Oregon white oak
234 Douglas-fir-tanoak-Pacific madrone
236 Bur oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
241 Western live oak
242 Mesquite
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
244 Pacific ponderosa pine-Douglas-fir
245 Pacific ponderosa pine
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
248 Knobcone pine
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak-foothills pine
251 White spruce-aspen
255 California coast live oak

101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
103 Green Fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
106 Bluegrass scabland
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
108 Alpine Idaho fescue
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
201 Blue oak woodland
202 Coast live oak woodland
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
209 Montane shrubland
210 Bitterbrush
212 Blackbush
215 Valley grassland
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
305 Idaho fescue-Richardson needlegrass
306 Idaho fescue-slender wheatgrass
307 Idaho fescue-threadleaf sedge
309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass
310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama
311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
319 Bitterbrush-rough fescue
320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue
322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue
324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
404 Threetip sagebrush
405 Black sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
409 Tall forb
411 Aspen woodland
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
419 Bittercherry
421 Chokecherry-serviceberry-rose
501 Saltbrush-greasewood
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
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama prairie
605 Sandsage prairie
606 Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass
607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass
608 Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass
609 Wheatgrass-grama
610 Wheatgrass
611 Blue grama-buffalo grass
612 Sagebrush-grass
613 Fescue grassland
614 Crested wheatgrass
615 Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama
701 Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass
702 Black grama-alkali sacaton
703 Black grama-sideoats grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
705 Blue grama-galleta
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
708 Bluestem-dropseed
709 Bluestem-grama
710 Bluestem prairie
712 Galleta-alkali sacaton
713 Grama-muhly-threeawn
714 Grama-bluestem
715 Grama-buffalo grass
716 Grama-feathergrass
718 Mesquite-grama
719 Mesquite-liveoak-seacoast bluestem
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
721 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (plains)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat
725 Vine mesquite-alkali sacaton
727 Mesquite-buffalo grass
728 Mesquite-granjeno-acacia
729 Mesquite
730 Sand shinnery oak
731 Cross timbers-Oklahoma
732 Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)
733 Juniper-oak
734 Mesquite-oak
801 Savanna
802 Missouri prairie
804 Tall fescue

Agropyron-Koeleria, in which prairie Junegrass is a dominant species, is one of the northern plains mixed-prairie climax communities [30]. Prairie Junegrass is also a climax dominant within mixed-grass communities of southern Alberta and an indicator species of lower- to middle-north facing slopes [32].

Prairie Junegrass is listed as an indicator or a dominant species in the following publications:

Plant communities of the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon and southeastern Washington [50]
Plant associations of the Crooked River National Grassland [57]
Habitat types on selected parts of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre National Forests [68]
A preliminary classification of high-elevation sagebrush-grass vegetation in northern and central Nevada [77]
Plant associations (habitat types) of Region 2 [115]
Sagebrush steppe [128]


Koeleria macrantha
All classes of livestock and several wildlife species utilize prairie Junegrass [59]. Rapid seasonal development of prairie Junegrass provides good, early-spring forage for livestock. Studies document prairie Junegrass utilization by bighorn sheep, mountain goats, elk, white-tailed deer and mule deer [20,42,63,68]. Due to scattered distribution, prairie Junegrass does not maintain a significant role in the diet of most wildlife species. A review of mule deer foraging habits found fluctuations of use from little to moderate, directly related to percent availability of other preferred forage species [34,60,68]. Prairie Junegrass's ability to inhabit rocky soils and high elevations makes it a good food source for bighorn sheep [42,45,63]. Mountain goats feeding in similar habitats also utilize prairie Junegrass [45].

Prairie Junegrass is a key winter forage plant for ungulates of British Colombia prairies. However, it is ranked at low importance for coast deer, white-tailed deer, Roosevelt elk, Rocky Mountain elk, moose and caribou and at moderate importance for mule deer, mountain goat and bighorn sheep [20].

Prairie Junegrass is palatable to all classes of livestock and wildlife species in spring, and in fall after curing [117]. Level of palatability decreases during seed production until curing is complete [117]. Palatability and degree of use by livestock and wildlife species are [37,81]:

Cattle Good Good Good Good Good
Domestic Sheep Good Good Good Good Good
Horses Good Good Good Good Good
Pronghorn ---- Fair Poor Fair Good
Elk ---- Fair-Good ---- Good Good
Mule deer ---- Fair Poor Fair Good
White-tailed deer ---- ---- Poor ---- Good
Small mammals ---- ---- Poor Good Fair
Small non-game birds ---- ---- Poor Good Fair
Upland game birds ---- ---- Poor Fair Fair
Waterfowl ---- ---- Fair Poor Fair

Prairie Junegrass is rated poor in protein value and good in energy value [37]. Nutritional value in accordance with relative phenological stage is [81]:

Hay, dry Aerial part fresh, immature Aerial part fresh, mature Aerial part fresh overripe
% Dry matter 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
% Ash 7.8 7.8 8.1 7.7
% Crude Fiber 34.2 25.8 38.6 41.0
% Ether extract 2.9 2.3 2.5 1.8
% N-Free extract 46.0 40.3 45.0 45.7
% Protein (N x 6.25) 9.1 23.8 5.8 3.8
% digestible protein - Cattle 4.8 18.1 2.8 1.1
% digestible protein - Horses 5.2 17.7 2.5 0.8
% digestible protein - Sheep 4.7 19.2 2.4 0.5
   Cattle DE1 Mcal/kg 2.11 2.50 2.31 2.31
   Sheep DE1 Mcal/kg 1.99 2.59 2.44 2.47
   Cattle ME2 Mcal/kg 1.73 2.05 1.89 1.89
   Sheep ME2 Mcal/kg 1.63 2.12 2.00 2.03
   Cattle TDN3 % 47.8 56.7 52.5 52.3
   Sheep TDN3 % 45.2 58.8 55.3 56.0

1DE = Digestible energy  2ME = Metabolizable energy  3TDN = Total digestible nutrients

The short stature and scattered distribution of prairie Junegrass provide minimum coverage for larger birds and mammals. Relative coverage classifications for wildlife species are [37]:

Small mammals
Poor Poor Good Fair
Small non-game birds Poor Fair Good Fair
Upland game birds Poor Fair Fair Fair
Waterfowl Good Poor Poor Fair


Prairie Junegrass can recolonize areas that have been subjected to severe water stress. Recolonization by prairie Junegrass provides protective cover to help subsequent post-drought, successional plant species growth [121].

Prairie Junegrass's ability to suppress invasive annuals is variable. Reestablishing prairie Junegrass populations, through greenhouse propagation and transplant, within an area overrun by annuals has been successful [72]. Borman and others [22] observed a weak ability to exclude annual weeds in southwest Oregon. When grown with the invasive Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus) under densities of 0, 50, 100, 200 and 400 m-2, emergence and seedling survival of prairie Junegrass were not affected [96].

Prairie Junegrass has the ability to revegetate areas of high soil disturbance. Sod obtained from a native rough fescue (Festuca scabrella) climax grass community (containing prairie Junegrass) in Canada was used to revegetate a steep-sloped ravine edge disturbed during road construction and community facility development [91]. Prairie Junegrass is a component in seeding mixtures designed for restoration of disturbed Fescue grassland sites within Glacier National Park [69]. A study evaluating secondary successional patterns in a big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) community in the Piceane Basin of northwest Colorado observed a positive response in prairie Junegrass vegetation cover after induced soil disturbance. Increased vegetation cover over a six year period occurred after three different soil disturbance regimes [14]:

a) Vegetation mechanically removed and soil scarified to 12 inches (30 cm)
b) Top soil and subsoil (C horizon) removed to 3.3 feet (1 m) mixed and replaced
c) 2 layers, 3.3 feet (1 m), soil removed and replaced in reverse order (second layer on top)

Disturbance of sites with loamy surface soil and heavy clay subsoil by vehicle traffic and bison activity in Wood Buffalo National Park, Alberta, was associated with increased coverage for prairie Junegrass. Undisturbed sites showed 0.25 to 1.4% cover, disturbed 3.4 to 3.8% cover [89].

Larger numbers of seed for native species are finding their way into the market every year, with availability determined by demand [107]. A seed testing procedure for purity and viability of prairie Junegrass is under development [21]. Propagation of prairie Junegrass from seed can be difficult as shown by the study results below [84]:

Stratification Days to 1st Germination Days to peak Germination Approx. # of seedlings / oz. of seed

10 weeks (dry)

13 NA low
10 weeks (moist) 7 19 low

Direct seeding and seedling transplant produced poor results. Transplanting year old plants had good results [84]. Seed stratification produced greater germination rates than dry storage, 58% to 18% respectively. Viability of seed dramatically decreased from 21% in 3rd year of dry storage at room temperature to 7% in the 6th year [18].

No entry

Obtaining prairie Junegrass seed from plants within similar environments (i.e. elevation, climate), may be significant for re-establishing vigorous populations. A correlation between genotype and phenotype of individuals from different habitats has been observed [95].

Grazing on prairie Junegrass populations has both positive and negative results [15,39,80,88,102,103]. Evaluations of grazing are difficult because growing conditions may prove more significant than grazing pressure. Important grazing considerations for prairie Junegrass include site characteristics (e.g. soil, elevation) [109], environmental conditions [69,105], growing season, and frequency [69]. A study comparing rotational grazing (1½ months spring and 1½ months fall every other year) and continuous grazing saw increases under both regimes; precipitation was above the long term average [103]. A study comparing rotational grazing and season long grazing on a native northern mixed-grass prairie of North Dakota was associated with positive responses in prairie Junegrass basal cover between the 1st and 4th year. Degenerative effects were seen in the 6th year [15]. Prairie Junegrass responds well to grazing and is more palatable in spring and fall [114,117]. In general, grazing conducted August through October is sustainable, if adequate moisture is available [24]. Maintaining a 3 inch (7.6 cm) stubble is recommended for seral communities of the Great Basin, Pacific Northwest and northern Great Plains [80].

The increased presence of invasive plant species in areas with prairie Junegrass has led to studies evaluating the use of herbicidal controls. Tordon and Transline were evaluated for control of spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) on native grasslands. No negative effects were documented for prairie Junegrass and increases in native grass density were observed [93]. Tebuthiuron applied to control sagebrush in Idaho had no effect on prairie Junegrass canopy cover at application rates reaching 1.1 kg ha -1 [123].

Correlations between mycorrhizal associations and prairie Junegrass stage of development have been observed. Positive associations are seen within early seedling development [51]. In later developmental stages, a negative association was documented within several grassland communities. In the absence of vesicular arbuscular mycorrhizae (VAM) in low P soils, prairie Junegrass outcompeted big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii); t he opposite was true in the presence of VAM and P [52]. Suppression of mycorrhizal symbiosis increased the biomass of prairie Junegrass within a experimental tall-grass prairie consisting of big bluestem, purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), speedwell (Veronica fasciculata) and tall blazing star (Liatris aspera) [124].


Koeleria macrantha

Prairie Junegrass is a loosely-tufted, shallow-rooted, native grass of small stature. This cool-season perennial bunchgrass has long, mostly basal leaves [11,43,56,110]. The panicle is narrow and spikelike, except during spring flowering, when open [117].

Quantitative botanical characteristics are extremely variable depending upon sample location. The spikelike panicle can range from 1 to 7 inches (2.5-17.8 cm) in length [117] and is usually two flowered and compressed [54]. During flowering the spikelike branches are open [78]. The long, narrow, flat leaves range from 1.5 to 5 inches (3.8-12.7 cm) long from their basal point of attachment [117]. Prairie Junegrass's leaves are drought resistant and persist under dry conditions [33].

Prairie Junegrass has an average maximum rooting depth between 13 to 29.5 inches (33-75 cm) [29]. Root density decreases after 11.8 inches (30 cm), with the greatest concentration of fibrous roots found within the upper 1.2 inches (3 cm) [107]. Lateral spread ranges from 5.9 to 7.9 inches (15-20 cm) near the soil surface [29].


Regeneration is accomplished by seed, which ripens late summer to fall [110] and by sprouting from the residual plant [23,120]. Prairie Junegrass seeds are relatively small (4,000 gram-1 reported by Eddleman [40] and 3,125 gram-1 reported by Nernberg [83]) and of low viability [78,83,110].

Temperature, soil moisture and seasonality provide cues for germination of prairie Junegrass [40,104,112]. A comparison of germination and emergence of prairie Junegrass at 45 (7°C), 55 (13°C), 64 (18°C) and 80 (27°C) degrees Fahrenheit, showed the greatest % emergence at 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18°C) [104]. Blake [18] observed good germination within silt loam at 1/2 and 1/3 saturation. Prairie Junegrass also possesses the ability to germinate under periods of water stress. Germination responses were observed at water potential between 0 to 12 bars [40].

A seedbank evaluation of prairie Junegrass found that seed was infrequent or absent within sampled areas, although prairie Junegrass was a significant member of the plant community [112]. Seedbank germination response to seasonality was also measured. Prairie Junegrass showed no seedling establishment during early spring (May and June) [112]. Large peaks were observed during late summer and autumn [112].

The presence of mycorrhizae may have a significant (p< 0.05) positive effect on seedling emergence [51]. Neutral effects have also been reported [124].

Prairie Junegrass is fairly cosmopolitan among prairie and grassland habitats of North America. A small percentage of prairie Junegrass cover is found within the majority of upland and high-prairie systems [38,90,122] in scattered stands [117]. Prairie Junegrass is normally found at elevations between 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1524-2438 m) [87]. Preferred sites are cool, semi-arid (xeric) [8,10,26], infertile grasslands and rock outcrops [27]. Annual precipitation requirements range from 16 to 21 inches (41-53 cm) [87] with 70% obtained during the growing season (August-September) [26].

The wide distribution of prairie Junegrass across several habitat types is consistent with its occurrence on many soil types [58,87]. A study evaluating ecological factors associated with production of grassland communities in western North Dakota found prairie Junegrass a member of several plant communities of different soils and vegetation [90]. Percent clay doesn't appear to have a great effect upon the presence of prairie Junegrass [58]. Steep slopes and well-drained soils with moderate to high water holding capacity are preferred [97]. Within sagebrush communities of Grand Teton National Park, a greater occurrence of prairie Junegrass was found on coarse textured soils [98]. An evaluation within the White Mountains of California found prairie Junegrass occurring on carbonate, noncarbonate, basalt, sandstone, and adamellite substrates, with a moderate affinity for noncarbonates [72]. A positive association with exchangeable Na was also found, along with a negative association to sandstone substrates and sites with high exchangeable K [72].

Prairie Junegrass acts as a seral recolonizer of previously water-stressed areas [122] and played a leading role in recolonizing bare soil of mid-continental grasslands after the droughts of 1933 to 1940 [121].

Prairie Junegrass is part of seral western juniper sites [35]. Prairie Junegrass also occurs in several climax communities. See the 'Habitat Types and Plant Communities' section of this species summary.

Prairie Junegrass has a wide distribution, so only a general description of seasonal development is given. Avoidance of growth during dry, summer months is ubiquitous [11]. Development is associated with rapid, early, spring growth [11,29] with maximum leaf growth taking place the first half of May [11].

Mature Foliage Height (%)
Mid-April 65%
End of May 90%
(Observed within sandhills region of Nebraska)

Flowering usually occurs late spring to early summer [52]. First appearance of flowers occurs in southern regions, flowering progressively later to the north and west [74]. Prairie Junegrass is one of the earliest grasses to flower in the southern United States [74].

Initiation of growth is correlated with soil temperatures of 40 degrees Fahrenheit (4°C) and air temperature just below 42 degrees Fahrenheit (5.5°C) [29]. Blaisdell [17] observed seasonal development of prairie Junegrass in southern Idaho over six years. Mean initiation of growth occurred at the beginning of April, 10 to 15 days after disappearance of snow (4/2). Flower stalks formed at the beginning of May (5/7) with a fully developed inflorescence occurring by June 1st. Flowers bloomed mid- June (6/17) with seed ripening occurring mid-July (7/10). Seed dissemination started mid-July (7/15) and ended mid-August (8/11).

Case studies have given the following as typical flowering months: [17,31,37,54,95]

Beginning of Flowering End of Flowering
May - June
June - July
North Dakota
June - July


Koeleria macrantha

Prairie Junegrass is reported as showing little or no damage [129] to moderate damage [126] from fire. Perennial grasses possess growing points insulated near or below the soil surface [129]. The small stature of prairie Junegrass and coarse textured foliage aid in protection of these meristimatic tissue areas [129]. Possessing coarsely textured foliage and a small clump size also limits the potential for fire damage [129]. Coarse grasses like prairie Junegrass burn quickly, transferring little heat below the soil surface [120]. As a member of eastern Oregon grasslands, prairie Junegrass is considered a superior fire-resistant perennial bunch grass [126].

Fire survival strategy for prairie Junegrass is based upon seed germination and residual plant survival [23]. The extent of damage or benefit imposed by fire is highly variable. Response can vary according to fire severity, physiological state of plant, soil moisture, and season of burn [23,101].

Fire regimes for plant communities in which prairie Junegrass occurs are summarized below. For further information regarding fire regimes and fire ecology of communities where prairie Junegrass is found, see 'Fire Ecology and Adaptations' section of the FEIS species summary for the plant community or ecosystem.

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range in Years (mean)
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47 [25]
interior ponderosa pine* P. ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-200 [25]
Colorado pinyon P. edulis 10-49 [25]
Mexican pinyon P. cembroides 20-70 [115,116
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 [25]
coastal Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii 40-240 [25,79,94]
quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains) Populus tremuloides 7-100 [48,75]
oak-hickory Quercus-Carya spp. 50-100 [1]
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa < 10 [25]
California montane chaparral Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp. 50-100 [25]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [99]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 5-15 [127]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40) [118,127]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (10) [7]
plains grasslands Bouteloua gracilis and/or Buchloe dactyloides 20-40 [25]
prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii 1-6 [66]

Tussock graminoid
Caudex, growing points in soil
Secondary colonizer - on-site seed


SPECIES: Koeleria macrantha

Prairie Junegrass is usually top-killed or killed by fire. Fast-moving, low-intensity fires will consume above ground vegetation without damaging the plant's crown [101]. In general, late-spring burns are more damaging to prairie Junegrass than early-spring, late-summer, fall, or winter burns [113].

The root crown of prairie Junegrass may sustain immediate damage depending upon amount of heat transferred through the soil [
36]. Meristematic tissue of most grasses is found at the ground surface in the root crown [101]. A study [36] in the southwest United States evaluated patterns of plant growth in relation to soil heating from wildfire in chaparral systems. Prairie Junegrass was found to have a strong negative correlation between heat load and sprouts.

Positive postfire vegetational responses are common for prairie Junegrass. Increased seedhead presence and height-of-inflorescence have been documented [41]. Annual burning of a native grassland in the aspen parkland of central Alberta caused a 40% increase in seedhead presence compared to unburned areas [5].

Prairie Junegrass's response to fire is related to season of burn, fire intensity, and postfire water availability [49]. Several studies evaluating the effect of fire on following season vigor report positive correlations [2,3,4,6,8]. Time required to acquire the approximate preburn frequency or coverage, is rapid, averaging 2 to 5 years [120].


Prairie Junegrass shows positive responses to fire. Fall and early-spring burns produce better responses than summer burns [4,62]. A summation on the effect of burn seasonality in eastern Oregon is given below [126]:

Burn Season Change in Basal Area Mortality
Mid-May -32% 20%
Mid-June (Post-seed-out) -18% 0%
Mid-October approx. -18% 0%

Observations of prairie Junegrass populations two years after a spring burn were conducted in Galena Gulch within the Deer Lodge National Forest in western Montana. Burned sites experienced a 40% increase in prairie Junegrass occurrence [6]. Percent coverage of prairie Junegrass was evaluated in burned and unburned sites after a June fire in western Montana. Coverage was greater in the burned areas two years after the burn populations decreased, but maintained levels above the control stands [6].

Autumn 1977 Spring 1978 Summer 1978
Unburned Burned Unburned Burned Unburned Burned

An experiment was initiated in 1926 on a bluestem pasture in eastern Kansas to record effects of fire upon several ecological parameters. Fires were set the same times each year beginning in 1926: early-spring (March 20), medium-spring (April 10), late-spring (May 5) and late-fall (December 1). The response of prairie Junegrass to the burns from late June, 1928, to early July, 1933, are summarized below [4]:

Number of plants/year within 2 rods square - observed late June and early July

Year Observed
Burn date 1928
Check plot

Prairie Junegrass density on all burn treatments except medium-spring, exceeded density on the 1928 check plot until 1933, when densities were low on early-spring and late-spring treatment sites as well [4].

An August burn in northeastern Oregon resulted in elevated postburn coverage for prairie Junegrass at 1 and 5 years after moderate and low severity burns. Moderate burns maintained 5% prairie Junegrass cover, near the preburn 3% coverage. The low severity burn showed an increase the 1st year from 2% to 9%, dropping to 4% the 5th year [61].

Average % composition for prairie Junegrass was observed under different burning regimes from 1928 to 1982 on a tall-grass prairie in Kansas. Winter (December 1) and early spring (March 20) burns highly favored prairie Junegrass (p<0.05) [113]. Burns at different times show degenerative effects [19].

Twelve to 15 years after prescribed burns in eastern Idaho, prairie Junegrass produced more herbage on burned than unburned sites. Production on 'heavy' burns (main stem of sagebrush consumed by fire) was less than on 'light' (only leaves consumed) and 'moderate' (leaves and small branches consumed) burns. Results in pounds/acre are [16]:

Fire Season Years postfire Unburned Light-burn Moderate-burn Heavy-burn
August 12 9.4 14.2 13.3 10.7
September 15 32.8 43.6 53.4 36.8

On ponderosa pine and Douglas-fir communities in the Blue Mountains of northeastern Oregon, prairie Junegrass cover and frequency in postfire year 4 were higher on prescribed burned sites than on thinned, thinned-and-burned, or unburned control sites. Prairie Junegrass was determined to be an indicator species for burned sites (P0.05). For further information on the effects of thinning and burning treatments on prairie Junegrass and 48 other species, see the Research Project Summary of Youngblood and others' [130] study.

The other following Research Project Summaries also provide information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of plant species including prairie Junegrass:

Burning, in general, has a positive influence on prairie Junegrass populations when conducted in early-spring and fall and followed by mean or above average annual precipitation [113]. Water availability after a burn is important for maintaining healthy postfire populations of prairie Junegrass. A fall burn and above average precipitation increased postfire prairie Junegrass density in a southwestern ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest [86]. The opposite was seen at a fall burn in North Dakota, but burned areas possessed a lower moisture content than unburned areas [11].

A study comparing fire tolerance and burn season found prairie Junegrass tolerant to burns conducted in May, June and November on a grassland in eastern Oregon [24]. Evaluations were made 1 and 2 years after the burn.

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129. Young, Richard P. 1983. Fire as a vegetation management tool in rangelands of the Intermountain Region. In: Monsen, Stephen B.; Shaw, Nancy, compilers. Managing Intermountain rangelands--improvement of range and wildlife habitats: Proceedings; 1981 September 15-17; Twin Falls, ID; 1982 June 22-24; Elko, NV. Gen. Tech. Rep. INT-157. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station: 18-31. [2681]

130. Youngblood, Andrew; Metlen, Kerry L.; Coe, Kent. 2006. Changes in stand structure and composition after restoration treatments in low elevation dry forests of northeastern Oregon. Forest Ecology and Management. 234(1-3): 143-163. [64992]

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