SPECIES: Nassella viridula

INTRODUCTORY

SPECIES:  Nassella viridula
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Taylor, Jennifer L. 2001. Nassella viridula. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/ [].

ABBREVIATION:
NASVIR

SYNONYMS:
Stipa viridula Trin [51,54,63,76,104,141]

NRCS PLANT CODE [135]:
NAVI4

COMMON NAMES:
green needlegrass
feather bunchgrass
green stipagrass

TAXONOMY:
The currently accepted scientific name of green needlegrass is Nassella viridula (Trin.) Barkworth (Poaceae) [75].

Green needlegrass occasionally hybridizes with Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides) to produce Achnella caduca (Beal) Barkworth, a sterile plant [51,70].

LIFE FORM:
Graminoid

FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status

OTHER STATUS:
In Idaho, the Natural Heritage Program and Conservation Data Center list green needlegrass as "imperiled because of rarity or because other factors demonstrably make it very vulnerable to extinction (typically 6 to 20 occurrences)."  The Native Plant society lists green needlegrass as a type 2: "taxa likely to be classified as priority 1 within the foreseeable future in Idaho, if factors contributing to their population decline or habitat degradation or loss continue."  The Bureau of Land Management in Idaho lists green needlegrass as sensitive: "taxa (1) that are under status review by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service/National Marine Fisheries Service, (2) whose numbers are declining so rapidly that federal listing might become necessary, (3) with typically small and widely dispersed populations, or (4) inhabiting ecological refugia or other specialized unique habitats."  It is secure globally [69].


DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE

SPECIES:  Nassella viridula
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION:
Green needlegrass occurs from Canada southward through Montana, mainly east of the Continental Divide, to Arizona and New Mexico [43,51].  It is native to the Great Plains north of Kansas and to Wisconsin and Illinois in the east [42].  Green needlegrass has been introduced in many parts of eastern North America [51,76].  In Wisconsin and Illinois, green needlegrass has been found along railroad rights-of-way [38,96].

ECOSYSTEMS [44]:
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES29 Sagebrush
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES35 Pinyon-juniper
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
FRES39 Prairie
FRES40 Desert grasslands

STATES:
AZ CO ID IL IA KS MN MT
NE NM ND NY SD UT WI WY

AB BC MB NT SK

BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS [6]:
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

KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS [85]:
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K016 Eastern ponderosa forest
K017 Black Hills pine forest
K019 Arizona pine forest
K022 Great Basin pine forest
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
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

SAF COVER TYPES [36]:
210 Interior Douglas-fir
219 Limber pine
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
237 Interior ponderosa pine
239 Pinyon-juniper

SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES [119]:
101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
210 Bitterbrush
301 Bluebunch wheatgrass-blue grama
302 Bluebunch wheatgrass-Sandberg bluegrass
303 Bluebunch wheatgrass-western wheatgrass
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
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
312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue
314 Big sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
315 Big sagebrush-Idaho fescue
316 Big sagebrush-rough fescue
317 Bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
318 Bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
323 Shrubby cinquefoil-rough fescue
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodlands
601 Bluestem prairie
602 Bluestem-prairie sandreed
603 Prairie sandreed-needlegrass
604 Bluestem-grama 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
703 Black grama-sideoats grama
704 Blue grama-western wheatgrass
706 Blue grama-sideoats grama
707 Blue grama-sideoats grama-black grama
708 Bluestem-dropseed
709 Bluestem-grama

HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Published classifications listing green needlegrass as an indicator species or a dominant component of community types or plant associations are listed below:

Conditions and trends on ponderosa pine ranges in Colorado [23]
The prairie, meadow, and marsh vegetation of Nelson County, North Dakota [31]
The many faces of South Dakota rangelands: description and classification [46]
Wind Cave National Park grassland ecology [48]
Ecologic observations on Pinus ponderosa laws.  (Pinaceae) at its eastern most extension in South Dakota [64]
The climate, soils, and soil-plant relationships of an area in southwestern Saskatchewan [67]
Alberta's prairie vegetation: past and present use [103]
Production ecology of grassland plant communities in western North Dakota [109]
Vegetation, soil, and cattle responses to grazing on Northern Great Plains range [110]
Climax vegetation of Montana: Based on soils and climate [114]
Woodlands in northwestern Nebraska [132]

North and South Dakota:
Green needlegrass is a codominant of western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis), prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and needle-and-thread (Hesperostipa comata) [9,19,21,35,45,46,47,71,87,90,98,100,109,116,121,123,128,136,142,143,144,147,149].  Green needlegrass is associated with sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) [19,47,90,116,123], Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) [19,72,149,], Sandberg bluegrass (P. secunda) [90], porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea) [46,116], Baker's wheatgrass (Elymus bakeri) [116], buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) [45,90,116,142,144], prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia) [21,46], plains muhly (Muhlenbergia cuspidata) [21,46,123], sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus) [142,143,144], threadleaf sedge (Carex filifolia) [9,21,87,123,142,143,144], needleleaf sedge (C. duriuscula) [21,87,90,123], Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus) [142,143,144], smooth brome (B. inermis) [19], and alfalfa (Medicago sativa) [4]. 

Shrubs that green needlegrass is associated with include fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida) [143] and western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) [19,109,149].  Green needlegrass occurs in the understory of interior pondersosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum) [64].  Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea) [19,46], plains prickly-pear (Opuntia polyacantha) [143], and western yarrow (Achillea millefolium), Flodman's thistle (Cirsium flodmanii), Canadian anemone (Anemone canadensis) [19] are also found with green needlegrass.

Montana:
Green needlegrass is a component of juniper-wheatgrass (Juniperus spp.-Agropyron spp.) and juniper-sandreed (Juniperus spp.-Calamovilfa spp.) communities [95].  It is found in the understory of Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca), Rocky Mountain juniper (Juniperus scopulorum), interior ponderosa pine [92,114], limber pine (Pinus flexilis), and chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) [114].

Green needlegrass is a codominant of western wheatgrass, needle-and-thread grass, bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), and blue grama [1,28,29,34,37,59,66,81,89,92,93,106,110,114,131,146].  Grasses associated with green needlegrass include porcupine grass [114], Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) [93,102,114], Baker's wheatgrass [102], prairie Junegrass [1,28,29,114,131], Sandberg bluegrass [66,92,131], plains reedgrass (Calamagrostis montanensis) [131], prairie sandreed [11,114], needleleaf sedge [1,66,131], sand dropseed [66], big bluestem [146], little bluestem [29,114,146], Kentucky bluegrass, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) [93], tumblegrass (Schedonnardus paniculatus) [66], alkali sacaton (Sporobolus airoides) [66,114], plains muhly [114], purple threeawn (Aristida purpurea) [66], and threadleaf sedge [59,66]. 

Shrubs that green needlegrass is commonly found with include Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis) [12,37,66,81,92,102,114], plains silver sagebrush (A. cana ssp. cana) [12,66,79,89,102,114], mountain silver sagebrush (A. c. ssp. viscidula) [12,66,81,89,102,114], fringed sagebrush [81,131], Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia) [114], western snowberry [66,92], black greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus) [12,92], shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) [102], Wood's rose (Rosa woodsii) [114], antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) [53], creeping juniper (J. horizontalis) [114], and Gardner's saltbush (Atriplex gardneri) [12,114]. 

Forbs commonly found with green needlegrass are American vetch (Vicia americana) [114,131],  Hood's phlox (Phlox hoodii) [66,131], western yarrow [1,102], common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) [1], scarlet globemallow [66,131], pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) [131], and the cactus, plains prickly-pear [1,66,81].

In Wyoming and Utah, green needlegrass is found with Wyoming big sagebrush, mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana), basin big sagebrush (A. t. ssp. tridentata), antelope bitterbrush [56,77], shrubby cinquefoil, and common juniper (Juniperus communis) [105].  It is a codominant of western wheatgrass and spike fescue (Leucopoa kingii) [15].  Green needlegrass is also associated with Sandberg bluegrass [56], needle-and-thread grass, cheatgrass, Indian ricegrass [77], and sedges [56].

In Colorado and Nebraska, green needlegrass is found in the understory of interior ponderosa pine with blue grama, cheatgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, needle-and-thread grass, western wheatgrass, little bluestem, sideoats grama, prairie sandreed, plains muhly, prairie Junegrass, Japanese brome, threadleaf sedge, sun sedge, dandelions (Taraxacum spp.), common juniper, wax currant (Ribes cereum), fringed sage, and common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) [82,132].

In Alberta, green needlegrass occurs in the wheatgrass-bluegrass (Agropyron spp.-Poa spp.) community, reedgrass-wheatgrass (Calamagrostis spp.-Agropyron spp.) community [117], and rough fescue (Festuca altaica) association [73].  In Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta, green needlegrass is codominant with western wheatgrass, needle-and-thread grass, blue grama, and buffalo grass [5,10,83,91,103,151].  It is associated with Sandberg bluegrass, plains muhly, threadleaf sedge [5], prairie Junegrass [5,83,151], western wheatgrass [5,103]  plains reedgrass, sun sedge, obtuse sedge (Carex obtusata) [83,151], timber oatgrass (Danthonia intermedia), Idaho fescue, porcupine grass [73,83,151], needleleaf sedge, [83,151], Pumpelly brome (Bromus pumpellianus), and pinegrass (Calamagrostis rubescens) [73].  Green needlegrass is associated with the shrubs fringed sagebrush [5,83,151], plains silver sagebrush, and Gardner's saltbush, winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata) [5].  It is also found with little clubmoss (Selaginella densa), prairie goldenrod (Solidago missouriensis), pussytoes, and plains prickly-pear [5].

BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS

SPECIES: Nassella viridula
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Green needlegrass is a tufted, perennial, native, long-lived, cool-season bunchgrass [1,8,14,18,20,24,28,29,35,42,47,65,74,94,99,101,126,128].  At maturity, the plants are 12 to 48 inches (30-122 cm) tall [4,49,51,61,72,86,97,107,109,127,128,139,141].  It has "good" drought tolerance [33,43,109,127], is moderately tolerant of flooding [57] and short-term submergence [139], and is capable of vigorous seedling growth [78].  Green needlegrass has a weak tolerance to shade from scattered shrubs and woodland openings and is very winter hardy [139].   

The numerous, mostly basal leaves, are flat to involute and taper to threadlike tips [139].  Average length of leaves ranges from 4 to 12 inches (10.2-30.5 cm) [127].  Inflorescences are narrow, loose spikelets and 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) [61,97] long.  Awns are bent twice and are 0.75 to 1.5 inches (1.9-3.8 cm) long [51,61,72,97,141].  Old sheath bases are often persistent [141].  

Green needlegrass has a deep, up to 4 to 5 feet (122-152 cm) [140], fibrous root system [4,22,88,127,139], similar to needle-and-thread grass.  The main roots are 0.04 inch (1 mm) in diameter; lateral spread is 14 inches (35.6 cm) in the first 6 inches (15.2 cm) of soil, and 18 inches (45.7 cm) in the first 12 inches (30.5 cm).  The system is well branched and rootlets are abundant to depths of 2.5 feet (76.2 cm) [140].

RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM [108]:
Hemicryptophyte

REGENERATION PROCESSES:
Green needlegrass reproduces from seed and through tillering [94,97].   New seeds of green needlegrass have a higher occurrence of dormancy and a lower germination rate than mature seeds.  Stratification in moist sand was found to be the best treatment to break dormancy.  Fall plantings are successful because overwintering in soil can break the dormancy [113].  

SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Green needlegrass is found on foothills, open hillsides and parks, in mountain meadows, canyons, and open woodlands [51,57,61].  It is a pioneer on abandoned croplands and coarse textured disturbed sites [139].  Green needlegrass is generally found in semi-arid, continental climates in a wide range of elevations [7,32,47].  Elevational ranges for green needlegrass are as follows:

SD 358 to 3,000 feet (109-900 m) [64,87,90,112]
MT  2,200 to 9,000 feet (671-2,700 m) [12,34,57,92,102,122]
AB 3,000 to 3,200 feet (914-975 m) [20]
ND 1,500 to 2,013 feet (460-610m) [17,31,109]
SK 2,247 feet (685 m) [83]
WY  7,600 to 9,000 feet (2,280-2,700 m) [56,57]

Green needlegrass is found in a wide range of temperatures.  Mean annual temperatures where green needlegrass is present are  3.4 to 117 degrees Fahrenheit (-15.9 to 47 oC).  Green needlegrass occurs in areas with an average precipitation of 10-26 inches (254-660 mm) and the majority of the precipitation occurs between April and September [5,9,11,20,124,134,148].  Mean annual precipitation ranges for green needlegrass are as follows:

ND 14 to 17.1 inches (356-438 mm)  [11,17,31,32,40,50,55,98,109]
SD 14.7 to 38.6 inches (374-980 mm) [9,35,46,74,87,90,100,112,116,144]
AB 10.7 to 12.8 inches (272-326 mm) [20,103]
MT 6.74 to 23.14 inches (171-587.8 mm) [12,34,37,66,92,93,102,106,122,131]
SK 12.9 to 13.28 inches (327-337 mm) [67,83]
WY 10 to 14 inches (254-356 mm) [56]

Soils: Green needlegrass is found on a variety of soil types [4,9,31,35,47,48,50,82,83,87,102,109,110,123,144,151].  It is tolerant of heavy clay soils, is less common on loams and sandy soils [90,127], and is weakly to moderately tolerant of soil salinity [139].  

SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
In North Dakota, green needlegrass is considered a major species of the climax vegetation with western wheatgrass, blue grama, needle-and-thread grass, and threadleaf sedge [58].  It is considered a major climax grass, dominant with western wheatgrass [100].   Green needlegrass is an early seral species on disturbed sites [94].

SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Green needlegrass is one of the first in its association to start spring growth in the western Northern Great Plains [57].  It generally starts growth in March, grows vegetatively in May and June, heads out in June, and matures in July [4,22,96,127,139]. 

Goetz [49] observed these dates of development in North Dakota during 1955-1962:

initiation of fruiting stalk May 26
head emergence June 12
anthesis June 16
seeds mature July 2
seeds starting to shed  July 12

White and Wight [145] observed these dates of development in Montana during 1975 and 1976: 

  1975 1976
late boot  June 7 May 21
first inflorescence June 10 May 24
anthesis June 23 June 7
start of dissemination July 14 June 21


FIRE ECOLOGY

SPECIES:  Nassella viridula
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Effect of fire on green needlegrass depends on season of burn and site characteristics [144].  Depending on the phenological state of the plant, green needlegrass increases or decreases following fire [79,144].  Aboveground vegetation of green needlegrass is usually consumed by fire, but individual culms may survive [35].  Regeneration is through seed and tillering [143].  The effects of fire, increases in growth or decreases in vigor, can be immediate and last up to 3 years following the fire [32,39,80,102,104,141].

Fire regimes for plant communities and ecosystems in which green needlegrass occurs are summarized below.  For further information regarding fire regimes and fire ecology of communities and ecosystems where green needlegrass if found, see the 'Fire Ecology and Adaptations' section of the FEIS species summary for the plant community or ecosystem dominants listed below. 

Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range (years)
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium < 10 [13,84]
Nebraska sandhills prairie Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium < 10 
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [13]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [115]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 20-60 [3,16]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40)** [137,150]
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. < 35 
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii < 35 
blue grama-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides < 35 
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum < 10 
California steppe Festuca-Danthonia spp. < 35 
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70 
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum < 35 
wheatgrass plains grasslands Pascopyrum smithii < 35 
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. < 35 
Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-10 
Arizona pine Pinus ponderosa var. arizonica 2-10 [13]
mountain grasslands Pseudoroegneria spicata 3-40 (10)** [2]
Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir* Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca 25-100 
Fayette prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Buchloe dactyloides < 10 
little bluestem-grama prairie Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp. < 35 [13]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary
**(mean)

POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY [125]:
Tussock graminoid
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)

FIRE EFFECTS

SPECIES:  Nassella viridula
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Green needlegrass is top-killed or killed by fire.  The number of inflorescences, basal area, and leaf lengths can be decreased by fire [25,35].  Specific effects of fire depend on season of burn, fire intensity, and severity [144].  Whisenant [144] stated that green needlegrass is intolerant of spring burning. 

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
No entry

PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Different researchers have observed various effects responses of green needlegrass to burning, depending on season of burning and site characteristics.  Green needlegrass has been found to increase following spring burning [79].  Following an April prescribed burn in South Dakota, Forde [39] found a decrease in percent ground cover the year of the fire, but observed rapid increases 2 years following the fire.  Whisenant [144] in South Dakota found burning caused a significant decrease in standing green needlegrass, approximately one-third of unburned plots, for at least 3 growing seasons following a fire in April.  Schripema [116] found that green needlegrass was decreased by spring burning in South Dakota.  Green needlegrass was absent from burned plots for 3 years postfire and was never found in flower following a September fire in North Dakota [32].  Olson [104] found canopy coverage of green needlegrass decreased in the 2nd postburn season following 2 annual burns in North Dakota.  Kirsch [80] found green needlegrass to increase with burning in North Dakota.  Nimir [102] observed a statistically insignificant decrease in green needlegrass on one burned site in Montana, but not the other.

DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
For further information on green needlegrass response to fire, see Fire Case Studies. The Research Project Summary Seasonal fires in Saskatchewan rough fescue prairie provides information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of plains grassland community species, including green needlegrass, that was not available when this species review was originally written.

FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
The effects of fire on green needlegrass vary with season of burn and site characteristics.  Higgins [62] found the best response of green needlegrass to fire with March-April (very-early spring) or August-September (late summer) in Northern Mixed Prairie.

FIRE CASE STUDIES

SPECIES: Nassella viridula
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION:
Tirmenstein, D., compiler. 1987. Effects of spring and summer fires on green needlegrass on the Samuel H. Ordway Memorial Prairie, north-central South Dakota. In: Nassella viridula. 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/ [ ].

REFERENCE:
Engle, D. M.; Bultsma, P. M. 1984. Burning of northern mixed prairie during drought. Journal of Range Management. 37(5): 398-401. [35].

SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION:
late spring, May 13-16, 1980 / not determined
summer, June 16, 1980 / not determined

STUDY LOCATION:
The burn occurred on the Samuel H. Ordway Memorial Prairie in north-central South Dakota, 6.2 miles (10 km) west of Leola.  

PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY:
Preburn vegetation comprised species occurring in the prairie pothole region of the northern mixed-grass prairie.  Associated plants included western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), green needlegrass (Nassella viridula), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii), and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis).  

TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE:
Plants were in "a depressed state of vigor", probably due to excess litter and mulch accumulation.

SITE DESCRIPTION:
Mean annual precipitation: 19.8 inches (502 mm); cool-season precipitation (September-May) was 33% below average for 1980-1981.
Soils: Williams loams (silty range site) and Bowbells loams (overflow range site).  The Williams soils are fine-loamy, mixed Typic Argiborolls.  The Bowbells soils are fine-loamy, mixed Pachic Argiborolls.   

FIRE DESCRIPTION:
Plots were burned with a headfire after a base control line was established with a backfire.  Plots were burned on May 15 and June 16, 1980.  Burning conditions were as follows:

  Wind Air temperature Relative humidity
May 13-16, 1980 3-13 km/h 39.2 to 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit (4-19 oC) 23-45%
June 16, 1980 0-24 km/h 68 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (20-30 oC) 42-66%

FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES:
The June burn effects appeared more evident.  In 1980, green needlegrass produced less growth on the burned plots when compared to the unburned plots.  However, in 1981, green needlegrass produced as much growth on burned as unburned plots.

Spring growth was consumed by the fire and some plants were killed.  Leaf length, number of inflorescences and basal area were decreased by burning.  Individuals that survived the fire had as much or more growth than those on the unburned plot 1 year postfire.  Measured fire effects were:

 Measured August 8-11, 1980

May 13-16 June 16 control
leaf length (cm) 24.7 23.3 41.1
inflorescences/m2 2.8 0.0 16.8
basal area (cm2) 10.3 6.9 20.8

 Measured August 8-11, 1981

May 13-16 June 16 control
leaf length (cm) 38.9 37.3 57.5
inflorescences/m2 32.9 34.0 19.7
basal area (cm2) 12.3 7.8 6.5

FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS:
Spring burning can yield a reduction in Kentucky bluegrass, but also leads to a decreased vigor of green needlegrass.  If the objective is to control of Kentucky bluegrass, burning in dry years, prior to warm-season tallgrass emergence (mid-May), may be recommended.  Burning in mid-May, if cool-season precipitation is below average, is not recommended if an increase in forage production is desired.  In drought years, burning after the emergence of warm-season grasses is not recommended.

MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS

SPECIES:  Nassella viridula
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
Green needlegrass is considered "good" forage based on palatability, nutritive content, and dependability as a forage supply [97,111,128].  The awns do not trouble livestock [97,128].  Green needlegrass is used for hay and pasture production [18,133] and can produce good quality hay on favorable sites [128].   

The seeds of green needlegrass are eaten by small mammals and songbirds, such as Vesper sparrow [7,127,139].  It is eaten by elk [92,122], Kaibab mule deer [68], and cattle [92].

PALATABILITY:
Green needlegrass is moderately to highly palatable to cattle all year, more palatable when green [18,41,49,127,139].  It is unpalatable  to bison once it is ripe [103].  Energy and protein content have been rated as fair [30].  

The palatability of green needlegrass for livestock and wildlife species is rated as follows [30]:

  CO MT ND UT WY
Cattle good good good good good
Domestic sheep fair good good fair good
Horses good good good good good

NUTRITIONAL VALUE:
Green needlegrass is a highly nutritious forage plant [41,78].  The highest protein content is in the early leaf stage and crude fiber content increases as development progresses [60].

Johnston and Bezeau [73] rate the nutritive value of green needlegrass in Alberta, Canada:

  Dry Matter Protein Crude Fat Crude Fiber Ash Calcium Carotene (mg/kg) Phosphorus
leaf stage 93.7 12.5 2.5 27.3 10.2 0.38 31.4 0.12
heading 92.6 0.85 8.6 1.8 1.95 0.16 32.9 0.5 4.4 0.5 0.17 0.05 29 2.4 0.10 0.02
seed-ripe 92.6 0.20 5.85 0.95 2.3 33.9 1.2  5.05 1.25 0.22 0.16 16.8 10.85 0.08 0.04
cured 94.1 3.6 2.1 36.7 6.7 0.26 2.7 0.07
weathered 95.7 3.5 2.0 32.4 10.5 0.35 2.2 0.05

The food value of green needlegrass for wildlife species is rated as follows [30]:

  UT CO WY MT ND
Elk good   good fair  
Mule deer fair   good poor poor
Pronghorn     poor poor poor
White-tailed deer   good   poor  
Small mammals fair   good    
Small nongame birds fair   good    
Upland game birds fair   good   poor
Waterfowl poor   poor   good


COVER VALUE:
Blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, northern shovelers, and pintails frequently select green needlegrass for nest sites because of its height [33,130].  It also provides additional concealment of nest sites for Brewer's and Vesper sparrow [7].  Grosz [52] observed green needlegrass at sharp-tailed grouse brood sites.

The value of green needlegrass as cover for domestic animals and wildlife is rated as follows [30]:

  MT ND UT WY
Elk     poor poor
Mule deer   good poor poor
Pronghorn fair good   fair
White-tailed deer     poor fair
Small mammals fair   fair good
Small nongame birds fair good fair good
Upland game birds fair good fair good
Waterfowl   fair poor poor


VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Green needlegrass is relatively easy to establish [33]. It has been used in cool-season seeding mixtures, because of its early spring growth; it stays green for a long time, tolerates cold well, and has good seedling vigor.  A problem with seed dormancy has hindered its use (see Botanical Characteristics, Regeneration Processes) [128].  Green needlegrass has been used to seed rangelands, pastures, and hay and to stabilize erosive sandy to clayey soils in the northern Great Plains [129,139].  It has been planted on reclaimed strip-mined sites in North Dakota [21,27] and Montana, as a part of native species grass seed mixtures on strip-mined lands [24,27,37].  Green needlegrass "has good potential for revegetation of abused rangeland" [41].  If green needlegrass is successfully established, it may persist as a dominant species on revegetated mined lands [29].

OTHER USES AND VALUES:
No entry

OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Green needlegrass decreases with grazing and spring deferment will benefit the grass [49,67,88,90,110,128].  It is grasshopper resistant and has no major diseases, but can occasionally be leaf-rust infested [139].  The presence of green needlegrass "on the more moist north-facing grasslands" indicates grazing of light to moderate levels in South Dakota [26].  It is a dominant grass on most upland range sites in high or excellent range condition [35,47].

Green needlegrass requires dormant fall plating [65].  Sites and planting dates must be chosen with moisture and germination in mind [43].  

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