Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Poa cusickii


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Howard, Janet L. 1997. Poa cusickii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : POACUS SYNONYMS : Poa epilis Scribn. [12] = P. cusickii ssp. epilis (Scribn.) R. J. Soreng [13,35] P. c. ssp. epilis var. purpurascens (Vasey) C. Hitchc. [35] = P. c. ssp. purpurascens (Vasey) R. J. Soreng [34] SCS PLANT CODE : POCU3 COMMON NAMES : Cusick's bluegrass TAXONOMY : The scientific name of Cusick's bluegrass is Poa cusickii Vasey (Poaceae) [9,13,14,15,22]. Accepted subspecies are: Poa cusickii ssp. cusickii [13,22,35] P. c. ssp. epilis (Scribn.) Weber [13,22,47] P. c. ssp. pallida R. J. Soreng [13,35,48] P. c. ssp. purpurascens (Vasey) R. J. Soreng [13,35] Kartesz [16] and Welsh and others [49] consider Cusick's bluegrass synonymous with mutton grass (P. fendleriana). Based upon chloroplast DNA anaylsis and differences in morphologies and mating systems, however, Soreng [34,35] has classified Cusick's bluegrass and mutton grass as distinct species. A separate report on mutton grass is available in FEIS. Poa X nematophylla Rydb. is a stable, apomictic taxon probably resulting from hybridization of P. c. ssp. pallida and mutton grass [35]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Cusick's bluegrass occurs from Alberta and Saskatchewan southward to North Dakota, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and California [13,15,35]. Distributions of subspecies are [13,35]: Poa cusckii ssp. cusickii - central Washington east to central Idaho and south to northern Nevada and east-central California P. c. ssp. epilis - British Columbia and extreme western Saskatchewan south to western Montana, eastern Idaho and the Coast Ranges of Washington and Oregon; isolated populations in the Cascade Range of Oregon and the Sierra Nevada of California, and in northern Nevada, north-central Wyoming, north-central Utah, and central Colorado P. c. ssp. pallida - British Columbia east to Saskatchewan and south to western North Dakota, northern Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, and extreme eastern California P. c. ssp. purpurascens - southern British Columiba through the Coast Ranges to northern California; rare in the Sierra Nevada ECOSYSTEMS : FRES20 Douglas-fir FRES21 Ponderosa pine FRES23 Fir - spruce FRES28 Western hardwoods FRES29 Sagebrush FRES30 Desert shrub FRES34 Chaparral - mountain shrub FRES35 Pinyon - juniper FRES36 Mountain grasslands FRES37 Mountain meadows FRES38 Plains grasslands STATES : CA CO ID MT NV ND OR UT WA WY AB BC SK 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 12 Colorado Plateau 16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K011 Western ponderosa pine forest K012 Douglas-fir forest K015 Western spruce - fir forest K017 Black Hills pine forest K018 Pine - Douglas-fir forest K020 Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest K021 Southwestern spruce - fir forest K023 Juniper - pinyon woodland K024 Juniper steppe woodland K037 Mountain-mahogany - oak scrub K038 Great Basin sagebrush K040 Saltbush - greasewood K050 Fescue-wheatgrass K051 Wheatgrass - bluegrass K055 Sagebrush steppe K056 Wheatgrass - needlegrass shrubsteppe K063 Foothills prairie K064 Grama - needlegrass - wheatgrass K065 Grama - buffalograss K066 Wheatgrass - needlegrass K098 Northern floodplain forest SAF COVER TYPES : 206 Engelmann spruce - subalpine fir 210 Interior Douglas-fir 217 Aspen 220 Rocky Mountain juniper 237 Interior ponderosa pine 238 Western juniper 239 Pinyon - juniper SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : 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 109 Ponderosa pine shrubland 110 Ponderosa pine-grassland 210 Bitterbrush 216 Montane meadows 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 308 Idaho fescue-tufted hairgrass 309 Idaho fescue-western wheatgrass 310 Needle-and-thread-blue grama 311 Rough fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass 312 Rough fescue-Idaho fescue 313 Tufted hairgrass-sedge 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 324 Threetip sagebrush-Idaho fescue 401 Basin big sagebrush 402 Mountain big sagebrush 403 Wyoming big sagebrush 404 Threetip sagebrush 405 Black sagebrush 411 Aspen woodland 412 Juniper-pinyon woodland 414 Salt desert shrub 415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany 416 True mountain-mahogany 501 Saltbush-greasewood 504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland 607 Wheatgrass-needlegrass 612 Sagebrush-grass HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Cusick's bluegrass is a minor component of most plant communities in which it occurs [4]. It dominates some eastern Washington, Oregon, and California plant communities, however [18,43]. Cusick's bluegrass is dominant on some xeric meadows in eastern Oregon [43]. A big sagebrush-silver sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata-A. cana)/Cusick's bluegrass plant association occurs in the Ochoco Mountains and Basin of Oregon and the Warner Mountains of California [18,19]. A list of publications describing plant communities dominated by Cusick's bluegrass follows. Vegetation types of Utah [1] Riparian zone associations: Deschutes, Ochoco, Fremont, and Winema National Forests [18] Use of geomorphology in the classification of riparian plant associations in mountainous landscapes of central Oregon, U.S.A. [19] Plant associations of the central Oregon Pumice Zone [44] Cusick's bluegrass meadows in Oregon associate with lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests upslope and more mesic meadows downslope. Downslope mesic meadows are usually dominated by Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis) and/or tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa). Flora on Cusick's bluegrass meadows are more diverse than on downslope meadows. Plants commonly found in Cusick's bluegrass meadows include California oatgrass (Danthonia californica), slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus), prairie junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), slenderbeak sedge (Carex athrostachya), threadleaf sedge (C. tilifolia), analogue sedge (C. simulata), western yarrow (Achillea millifolium), western aster (Aster occidentalis), and pussytoes (Antennaria spp.) [43,44]. Associates in the bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata)-Cusick's bluegrass mountain grasslands of Utah include Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), Indian ricegrass (Oryzopsis hymenoides), needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata), sand dropseed (Sporobolus cryptandrus), globemallow (Sphaeralcea spp.), phlox (Phlox spp.), and boreal sweetvetch (Hedysarum boreale ssp. boreale) [1]. Cusick's bluegrass occurs in shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia)- bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides) communities of eastern Oregon. Sandberg bluegrass and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) are also common in the community [17].


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Cusick's bluegrass makes up only a small proportion of the biomass of the sagebrush communities in which it lives, but it is often taken preferentially by cattle, especially early in the season [4,42]. Deer, elk, and mountain goat also use Cusick's bluegrass early in the season [20,32]. PALATABILITY : In eastern Washington, livestock prefer the less plentiful Cusick's bluegrass over bluebunch wheatgrass or Sandberg bluegrass [4,29,41,42]. In eastern Oregon, Cusick's bluegrass is rated moderately palatable to livestock, deer, and elk in early summer, and less palatable as plants mature in July [20]. The degree of use shown by livestock and wildlife species for Cusick's bluegrass in several other western states has been rated as follows [6]: CO MT UT WY Cattle good good good good Sheep good good good fair Horses good good good good Pronghorn ---- ---- fair fair Elk ---- ---- good good Mule deer ---- ---- good fair White-tailed deer ---- ---- ---- fair Small mammals ---- ---- good good Small nongame birds ---- ---- fair good Upland game birds ---- ---- fair fair Waterfowl ---- ---- fair poor NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Cusick's bluegrass has a fair energy rating and a relatively poor protein content [6]. COVER VALUE : The value of of Cusick's bluegrass as cover for small animals has been rated as follows [6]: UT WY Small mammals fair good Small nongame birds fair good Upland game birds poor fair Waterfowl ---- poor VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Cusick's bluegrass decreases with continuous grazing or heavy grazing early in the growing season. As a palatable, early-season grass that grows on dry sites, it is especially vulnerable to overgrazing [43,44]. Cusick's bluegrass meadows in poor to very poor condition are common in eastern Oregon. When livestock grazing is managed according to the condition of graminoids on more mesic downslopes, Cusick's bluegrass invariably declines [43]. Annual production in Cusick's bluegrass meadows of eastern Oregon in good condition is approximately 2,800 lbs/acre (dry weight). In poor condition, production is about 600 lbs/acre (dry weight). Volland [43] provides rangeland and soil rating guidelines for Cusick's bluegrass meadows and other eastern Oregon grassland communities. Cusick's bluegrass declined under moderate-intensity grazing in eastern Washington. Cusick's bluegrass had a 39 percent reduction in leaf length and a 20 percent reduction in flowering culm length. The proportion of grass plants with flowering culms was 62 percent lower on grazed plots than on ungrazed plots. The number of flowering culms per plant may also be lower. Cusick's bluegrass was more adversely affected by grazing than bluebunch wheatgrass or Thurber needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana) [30].


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Cusick's bluegrass is a cool-season, native perennial bunchgrass. It grows in dense, often large tufts. Culms are 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) long [14]. Cusick's bluegrass is dioecious with apomictic subspecies and races in which only pistillate plants are present [35]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Cusick's bluegrass reproduces from seed and by tillering [20]. Predominantly to entirely female populations are common. All Poa cusickii ssp. purpurascens plants are pistillate [35]. Both sexual and apomictic races produce viable seed [34,35]. Cusick's bluegrass stores seed in the soil. More Cusick's bluegrass germinated from seed in soil samples collected on plains rough fescue (Festuca altaica ssp. hallii) prairie in Saskatchewan than from seed of any other grass species, including plains rough fescue [10]. Germination rate of seed collected from mixed-grass prairie in Saskatchewan was 42 percent [56]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Cusick's bluegrass occurs mostly on dry sites. It grows on rocky slopes, terraces, dry margins of meadows, and inactive floodplains [4,5,18,20]. It has shown minor coverage on moist sites [24]. In eastern Washington, Cusick's bluegrass tends to be restricted to north-facing slopes in the basin big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)/bluebunch wheatgrass habitat types. In many stands, Cusick's bluegrass occurs primarily beneath canopies of shrubs, particularly big sagebrush and spiny hopsage (Grayia spinosa) [4,5]. Cusick's bluegrass occurs on all aspects in eastern Oregon [44]. Cusick's bluegrass occurs mostly on loamy-textured soils [17,29,44]. In Wyoming, it grows on Cryoboroll soils [25]. In eastern Oregon, Cusick's bluegrass is an indicator species for meadows with pumice soils and dry sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) floodplain sites [20]. Cusick's bluegrass occurs at mid- to high elevations [18] The elevational range of Cusick's bluegrass in several western states is reported below [6,18]. feet meters ------------ ----------- CA 4,440- 7,000 1,330-2,100 (in Warner Mts.) CO 6,200-12,800 1,890-3,902 MT 6,600-10,000 2,012-3,049 OR 4,440- 5,500 1,330-1,650 UT 8,700-11,800 2,012-3,597 WY 7,000-12,500 2,134-3,811 SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Little is known of Cusick's bluegrass' place in succession. In floodplain succession, Cusick's bluegrass does not occur on new floodplains. Instead, it occurs on inactive floodplains and dry terraces [18]. Cusick's bluegrass is a minor component of big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass and other climax habitat types [3]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Phenological decelopment of Cuisck's blugrass in most states has not been described. In Montana, Cusick's bluegrass flowers from June to August [6]. Wet weather can extend reproduction and growth period of Cusick's bluegrass. In Washington, Cusick's bluegrass flowered and continued growing for a longer period of time after the unusally wet fall and winter of 1973-1974 than after the dry winter of 1973-1974. Precipitation during the fall and winter of 1972-1973 was 5.4 inches (135 mm); preciptation the fall and winter of 1973-1974 was 15 inches (375 cm). Mutton grass phenology was as follows [31]: 1972-1973 1973-1974 growth began early March ----- floral buds formed mid-March mid-March flowers opened early April early April seed ripened early May mid-May growth stopped early June early July


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Cusick's bluegrass regenerates after fire from seed and by tillering [20]. Few quantitative data are available on Cusick's bluegrass response to fire. A few studies have shown short-term decline after fire [26,40]. In general, bluegrasses (Poa spp.) are relatively resistant to fire damage [20,52,53]. Cusick's bluegrass matures rapidly in the spring and is in a dormant state when summer and fall fires occur [51,52]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Tussock graminoid


SPECIES: Poa cusickii
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Data on the immediate effects of fire on Cusick's bluegrass are not available. The effects of fire on Cusick's bluegrass are probably comparable to those observed on mutton grass, a closely related and morphologically similar species [35]. Mutton grass is unharmed to slightly harmed by light-severity fall fire [11,45,46,50]. Mutton grass appears to be harmed by and slow to recover from severe fire [54,55]. Pedestalling increases the susceptibilty of bunchgrasses to fire. When grasses are elevated, new tillers are no longer insulated from fire by the soil [37,52]. Cusick's bluegrass plants that have become pedestalled by local erosion may be severely damaged or killed by fire, although fuels at such sites may be too patchy to support fire spread. Overgrazed Cusick's bluegrass rangelands are characterized by 25 to 45 percent bare ground and pedestalled Cusick's bluegrass plants [43]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Most information on Cusick's bluegrass response to fire is anecdotal [20,51,52,53]. Cusick's bluegrass recovery from fire is reported as "moderately rapid" [20] to "very rapid" [52,53]. Least damage occurs with late summer or fall fire when Cusick's bluegrass is dormant. Most damage is thought to occur from spring fire that occurs after plants have started growth [53]. Wildfire in mid-August, 1973, reduced vegetative growth and reproduction of Cusick's bluegrass for at least 3 years. The wildfire burned through a portion of a bluebunch wheatgrass-Thurber needlegrass (Stipa thurberiana) community on the Arid Lands Ecology Reserve in south-central Washington. An unburned portion of the community (fire excluded for at least 30 years) was used as a control. Basal area was reduced by 42 percent the first year after fire and remained reduced for all 3 postfire years on the burned site [40,42]. Leaf length, flowerhead length, and number of flowering culms were reduced the first year after fire. In postfire year 2, the number of flowering culms per clump was much greater than that on an unburned stand. By postyear 3, leaf length and the number of flowering culms equalled plants on the unburned stand. These results are similar to those from an earlier study in southern Idaho [26]. A comparison of Cusick's bluegrass on burned and unburned control plots for postfire years 1 to 3 follows. Data are means (standard errors) [40,41,42]. 1974 ________________________________________________________ | Burn Control | | ___________ ___________ | |live herbage (g/sq m) 2.4 (1.1) 4.2 (3.8) | |dead herbage (g/sq m) 0 3.8 (3.4) | |leaf length (cm) **14.1 (0.2) 21.9 (0.2) | |basal area (sq cm) **219.9 (23.3) 381.7 (35.5)| |culm length (cm) 46.6 (0.8) 46.9 (0.6) | |flowerhead length (cm) **5.7 (0.1) 6.4 (0.1) | |Number of flowering **4.3 (0.9) 9.5 (1.6) | | culms/clump | |clumps with flowering **67 72 | | culms (%) | |______________________________________________________| 1975 ________________________________________________________ | Burn Control | | ___________ ___________ | |live herbage (g/sq m) 1.5 (1.4) 2.4 (2.0) | |dead herbage (g/sq m) 0 1.0 (0.7) | |leaf length (cm) **17.5 (0.1) 20.2 (0.2) | |basal area (sq cm) **183 (20) 324 (29) | |culm length (cm) **43.4 (0.5) 36.9 (1.4) | |flowerhead length (cm) **5.8 (0.1) 6.8 (0.2) | |number of flowering *17.5 (4.3) 4.3 (1.0) | | culms/clump | |clumps with flowering **69 31 | | culms (%) | |______________________________________________________| 1976 ________________________________________________________ | Burn Control | | ___________ ___________ | |live herbage (g/sq m) *0.3 (0.2) 4.1 (2.0) | |dead herbage (g/sq m) *0.4 (0.2) 5.5 (2.3) | |leaf length (cm) **18.5 (0.2) 19.2 (0.2) | |basal area (sq cm) **169 (16) 285 (22) | |culm length (cm) 41.9 (0.5) 42.5 (0.5) | |flowerhead length (cm) **5.6 (0.1) 6.5 (0.1) | |number of flowering 8.5 (1.6) 7.8 (1.5) | | culms/clump | |clumps with flowering 60 65 | | culms (%) | |______________________________________________________| *Significantly different from unburned plot (p < 0.05) **Significantly different from unburned plot (p < 0.01) DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Repeated prescribed fire is recommended for reducing sagebrush (Artemsia spp.) on sagebrush/Cusick's bluegrass rangelands in eastern Oregon. Kovalchik [18] reported that on big sagebrush-silver sagbrush/Cusick's bluegrass communities that are in fair or better condition, repeated prescribed fire greatly decreases big sagebrush cover and increases cover of Cusick's bluegrass. Silver sagebrush cover is not reduced as much as big sagebrush cover because silver sagebrush sprouts, but silver sagebrush decreases at least somewhat as Cusick's bluegrass increases in vigor [18]. Considering Cusick's bluegrass meadows of eastern Oregon, Volland [43] wrote that, "Nothing is known about the effect of prescribed burning on this plant community." Because it is nonrhizomatous, Cusick's bluegrass may decline at the expense of Kentucky bluegrass, which is rhizomatous and common in Cusisk's bluegrass communities. Volland cautioned that if Cusick's bluegrass meadows are burned, they should be protected from grazing for at least one growing season after fire.

References for species: Poa cusickii

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