SPECIES: Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sporobolus cryptandrus


SPECIES: Sporobolus cryptandrus
Simonin, Kevin A. 2000. Sporobolus cryptandrus. 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/ [].


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sand dropseed

The currently accepted name of sand dropseed is Sporobolus cryptandrus (Torr.) A. Gray (Poaceae) [53, 59,61,62]


No special status

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Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sand dropseed occurs from B.C. south to southern California and New Mexico, and east to Ontario, Quebec, and Maine and most of the U.S. except for the extreme southeast [62]. Sand dropseed also occurs in Mexico and southern Canada [59].


FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory
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






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
K027 Mesquite bosques
K028 Mosaic of K002 and K026
K029 California mixed evergreen forest
K030 California oakwoods
K031 Oak-juniper woodland
K032 Transition between K031 and K037
K033 Chaparral
K037 Mountain-mahogany-oak scrub
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K039 Blackbrush
K040 Saltbush-greasewood
K043 Paloverde-cactus shrub
K044 Creosotebush-tarbush
K045 Ceniza shrub
K047 Fescue-oatgrass
K048 California steppe
K050 Fescue-wheatgrass
K051 Wheatgrass-bluegrass
K053 Grama-galleta steppe
K054 Grama-tobosa prairie
K055 Sagebrush steppe
K056 Wheatgrass-needlegrass shrubsteppe
K057 Galleta-threeawn 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
K071 Shinnery
K074 Bluestem prairie
K075 Nebraska Sandhills prairie
K076 Blackland prairie
K077 Bluestem-sacahuista 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
K089 Black Belt
K099 Maple-basswood forest
K100 Oak-hickory
K104 Appalachian oak forest


14 Northern pin oak
40 Post oak-blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
44 Chestnut oak
46 Eastern redcedar
52 White oak-black oak-northern red oak
53 White oak
63 Cottonwood
66 Ash juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper
67 Mohrs (shin) oak
68 Mesquite
69 Sand pine
72 Southern scrub oak
110 Black oak
210 Interior Douglas-fir
220 Rocky Mountain juniper
229 Pacific Douglas-fir
233 Oregon white oak
235 Cottonwood-willow
236 Bur oak
237 Interior ponderosa pine
238 Western juniper
239 Pinyon-juniper
240 Arizona cypress
241 Western live oak
242 Mesquite
243 Sierra Nevada mixed conifer
246 California black oak
247 Jeffrey pine
248 Knobcone pine
250 Blue oak-foothills pine


101 Bluebunch wheatgrass
102 Idaho fescue
104 Antelope bitterbrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
105 Antelope bitterbrush-Idaho fescue
106 Bluegrass scabland
107 Western juniper/big sagebrush/bluebunch wheatgrass
110 Ponderosa pine-grassland
201 Blue oak woodland
203 Riparian woodland
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
209 Montane shrubland
210 Bitterbrush
211 Creosotebush scrub
212 Blackbush
215 Valley grassland
216 Montane meadows
304 Idaho fescue-bluebunch wheatgrass
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
320 Black sagebrush-bluebunch wheatgrass
321 Black sagebrush-Idaho fescue
322 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany-bluebunch wheatgrass
401 Basin big sagebrush
402 Mountain big sagebrush
403 Wyoming big sagebrush
405 Black sagebrush
406 Low sagebrush
408 Other sagebrush types
409 Tall forb
412 Juniper-pinyon woodland
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
415 Curlleaf mountain-mahogany
416 True mountain-mahogany
422 Riparian
501 Saltbush-greasewood
502 Grama-galleta
503 Arizona chaparral
504 Juniper-pinyon pine woodland
505 Grama-tobosa shrub
506 Creosotebush-bursage
508 Creosotebush-tarbush
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
711 Bluestem-sacahuista prairie
712 Galleta-alkali sacaton
713 Grama-muhly-threeawn
714 Grama-bluestem
715 Grama-buffalo grass
716 Grama-feathergrass
717 Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass
718 Mesquite-grama
720 Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)
722 Sand sagebrush-mixed prairie
724 Sideoats grama-New Mexico feathergrass-winterfat
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


Sand dropseed is a climax species in 3 or more associations and a member of the ancestral mixed prairie [31]. Common grass associates are poverty, purple, red and Woton's three awn (Aristida divaricata, A. purpurea, A. purpurea var. longiseta, A. pansa), big, sand and little bluestem (Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii, A. gerardii var. pavaipilus, Schizachyrium scoparium), black , blue and hairy grama (Bouteloua eriopoda, B. gracilis, B. hirsuta), buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides),galleta (Hilaria jamesii), Texas wintergrass (Nassella leucotricha), Texas bluegrass (Poa arachnifera), spike and mesa dropseed (Sporobolus flexuous, S. contractus), needlegrass (Heterostipa comata).

Sand dropseed is listed as an indicator or a dominant species in the following publications:

Ecology of fire in short-grass prairie communities of the Kiowa National Grassland [43]
Phyto-edaphic communities of the upper Rio Puerco watershed, New Mexico [44]
Preliminary habitat types of a semiarid grassland [45]
Classification and ordination of seral plant communities [71]
Grassland ranges in the southern interior of British Columbia [89]
The palouse grassland association in northern Utah [121]
The grasslands of the southern interior of British Columbia [125]
Plant communities and secondary succession in south-central South Dakota [126]
Vegetation of the northern part of Cherry County, Nebraska [127]


Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sand dropseed provides fair to good forage for livestock [51,69,123] and poor forage for wildlife [51,123]. Sand dropseed's value as livestock forage is regional and dependent upon season. In spring and summer months, sand dropseed is a useful source of forage in Arizona [6]. In southwestern regions, sand dropseed provides good winter forage [130].

Stems at the base of sand dropseed remain green the majority of winter. If fall rains are adequate, sand dropseed may have a period of renewed growth, producing new shoots in old sheaths [31]. The persistent green base throughout winter makes sand dropseed an important desert winter range plant [130]. Sand dropseed stays green longer on sand than clay [130]. A seasonal evaluation of cattle in New Mexico reports that use within blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) upland range sites is greatest in September, January, and March [56]. In general, sand dropseed provides fair winter forage for domestic sheep [70,72]. However, it is not a preferred winter forage for domestic sheep in Utah. When other forage species are abundant sand dropseed is used lightly or not at all [54]. Sand dropseed is most preferred by cattle of dune rangelands [47].

Large mammals in general show little use of sand dropseed. Sand dropseed is not preferred by pronghorn [10], bison [100], elk, and deer [93]. The diet of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Colorado includes sand dropseed [109].

Small mammals and birds utilize sand dropseed to a greater extent than large mammals. Scaled quail in the Oklahoma panhandle feed on sand dropseed [116]. Seeds are fed upon by rodents in the Shinnery oak-honey mesquite (Quercus havardii-Prosopis glandulosa) grasslands of New Mexico [13]. In Kansas, sand dropseed provides a major food source for black-tailed jackrabbits [38]. From June to August, sand dropseed is a preferred forage for black-tailed prairie dogs in Colorado [55]. Black-tailed prairie dogs in Oklahoma and South Dakota also utilize sand dropseed [58,96].


Sand dropseed is palatable when green [11,18], but palatability declines with maturity [69,70,123]. Palatability varies from one region to another [70,130].

The palatability of sand dropseed to livestock and wildlife species has been rated as follows [37]:

Domestic sheep
Mule Deer
Poor Fair Fair
White-tailed deer ---- ---- Poor ---- Poor
Small mammals Good ---- ---- Good Good
Small nongame birds Good ---- ---- Fair Good
Upland game birds ---- ---- Poor Fair Good
Waterfowl ---- ---- ---- Poor Poor

Sand dropseed is rated fair in energy value and poor in protein [37]. As a winter forage species of the Great Basin, sand dropseed provides excellent nutrition but is deficient in phosphorus, carotene and protein [31].

Nutritional value for livestock in accordance with relative phenological stage is [94]:

Aerial fresh, mature Aerial without lower stem, fresh, mature Aerial without lower stem fresh, dormant
Dry matter 100 100 100
Ash 6.3 9.4 9.3
Crude fiber 36.7 33.3 36.3
Ether extract 1.4 1.5 1.1
N-free extract 49.9 49.3 47.9
Protein (N × 6.25) 5.7 6.4 5.5
Digestible protein
   cattle 2.7 3.3 2.5
   horses 2.4 3.0 2.2
   domestic goats 1.9 2.5 1.7
   domestic sheep 2.3 2.9 2.1
Calcium 0.30 0.32 0.40
Phosphorus 0.13 0.13 0.11

The degree to which sand dropseed provides cover for livestock and wildlife has been rated as follows [37]:

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

In southwest Kansas, sand dropseed provides overhead and ground cover for the lesser prairie chicken, which is listed as vulnerable to extirpation within the state [8].


Seed source is an important consideration for any reseeding project involving sand dropseed. A strong similarity in morphology and phenological development is seen between seedlings and the parent [103,114]. Heritable ecotypic variation in plant height, crown area and the number of inflorescences has been correlated with growing season length; increases are seen from north to south and from high to low elevations [103].

Sand dropseed is recommended as a component of grass seed mixtures for sandy and heavy to semi-sandy soils of New Mexico rangelands [18]. Good results are seen reseeding dry low lands receiving less than 9 inches (230mm) of precipitation within rangelands of Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho and western Wyoming [102].

Prolific seed production and large contributions to the soil seed bank are consistent throughout the many habitats of sand dropseed and may be linked to the initiation of sand dropseed within denuded landscapes [32]. A pioneer plant in disturbed areas [24], sand dropseed is an invader of sandy soils especially over grazed and blown-out areas [51]. Establishment within areas previously under water stress is also seen [25]. Within areas suffering from water stress, sand dropseed is an early native recolonizer and shows quick recovery [34]. Reseeded stands on desert grassland ranges had slow development, but seedlings were persistent and drought resistant [6]. Sand dropseed's rooting system helps stabilize sand hills and dunes [16,99].

Several studies have evaluated sand dropseed under different mulching practices within rangelands. When reseeding, sand dropseed responds well to straw mulch [17,111]. In a desert grassland, sand dropseed had increased germination and survival 1st and 2nd growing season when barley straw mulch was used [111]. The following study [49] provides a summary of the effect of litter upon seed bank germination within Arizona chaparral. Results are the number of seedlings emerging from four flats of 2 square feet of soil over a 72-day watering period [49]:

1Check 2Burn 3Removed 4Scarify
10 0 19 8

1Check = litter left in place on soil surface
2Burn = litter burned under 3 inches (8 cm) of excelsior
3Removed = litter carefully removed by hand
4Scarify = litter and soil top scarified with hand garden tool

Use of sand dropseed for revegetating soils contaminated by heavy metals has varied results. No germination was observed for sand dropseed used in a seeding mixture applied to an abandoned New Mexico coal surface mine recently covered with 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) of topsoil [46]. Container grown plugs of sand dropseed were transplanted in May, 1980, to revegetate a coalfield in Utah. Percent survival the 1st year was 91%; the 2nd year, 73%. Mortality observed the 1st year occurred only for sand dropseed individuals planted adjacent to plots of well-established cool season grasses [42].

Soil amendments (hay and composted bark) applied in 1977 to the Utah coalfields had no effect on survival. In the San Juan Basin of New Mexico, sand dropseed was used in a seeding mixture for reclaiming surface coal mines. In areas receiving less than 7 inches (180 mm) annual precipitation sand dropseed was dominant [118]. Sand dropseed is not recommended for revegetating Selenium (Se) enriched soils in Texas. Forage tissues retain high Se levels and shoot weights are drastically lowered within soils of high Se concentration [65].


Sand dropseed is an edible grass used by Native Americans [79].


Abiotic and biotic environmental factors are important regulators of sand dropseed grazing response. Responses to grazing are variable, with increases, decreases and no changes reported [17,20,25,37,57,66,80,81,85,104,107,123,132]. A 59-year data set describing grazing responses in a shadscale community found sand dropseed coverage more responsive to climate and plant associates than grazing pressure. Increase in sand dropseed coverage corresponded spatially with lower coverage of winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata), shadscale (Atriplex confertifolia) and budsage (Artemisia spinescens) [5]. Sand dropseed response to domestic sheep winter grazing within the intermountain rangelands of Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada was directly related to the relative availability of other palatable grasses. An indirect relationship was seen between sand dropseed use and the presence of Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides) [73]. A 12-year evaluation within the same region also found a direct positive response for sand dropseed to spring and summer precipitation [73]. Overall, sand dropseed shows good recovery to grazing in water stressed habitats [24,57]. Within arid shrublands, sand dropseed response to different grazing regimes is directly related to previous and current summer precipitation [97]. In the Nebraskan sandhills a direct positive correlation between fall moisture and regrowth was observed [47].

The New Mexico State University Extension recommends the following for seeding New Mexico rangelands with sand dropseed [4]:
Seeding Rate (lbs/acre)
Seeds/ft2(@ 1 lb/acre) Drilling 40'' rows Broadcast or drilling (20'' or less) Broadcast critical area Soil adaptation
123.0 0.5 0.5 0.5 sandy, loam

Sand dropseed shows variable responses to herbicides used for control of woody plant species. Tebuthiuron, used for sand shinnery oak control in Texas, had no effect on sand dropseed forage quality [14]. Similar response was observed using pelleted tebuthiuron to control big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) populations [88]. The use of 3,6-dichloropicolinic acid on a honey mesquite dominant habitat in Texas had no deleterious effects on sand dropseed populations. Overall production was greater in herbicide treated areas [75]. Picloram applied from June to October for control of redberry juniper (Juniperus erythrocarpa) in Texas reduced sand dropseed growth when spray came into direct contact with plants [117]. A similar study saw greater herbage yields under redberry juniper killed with picloram [52].

Sand dropseed does not compete well within pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.) woodlands. Three years after the removal of pinyon-juniper, the overall production of sand dropseed increased by 31 times the original amount [28].

Sand dropseed does not respond well to severe soil disturbance. Spring discking within a mesquite rangeland of northwest Texas had significant deleterious effects (p < 0.05) upon sand dropseed coverage and frequency [133].


Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sand dropseed is a warm-season [15,123], shallow-rooted [65], drought resistant [18,26,32], perennial bunch grass [123]. The solid stemmed [26] small tufts [61] of sand dropseed reach 12 to 40 inches (30-100 cm) tall [6,15].

Sand dropseed is a polymorphic species [103,132]. Leaf blades range from 3 to 10 inches (8-25 cm) long and 8/100 to 2/10 of an inch (2-5 mm) wide [51]. The panicle is purplish to lead colored [91,98], with the inflorescence ranging 6 to 16 inches (15-40 cm) long [61,123] and 1 to 6 inches (2-15 cm) wide [123]. A sheath partially encloses the inflorescence [85].

The roots of sand dropseed are fine, 2/100 of an inch (0.5 mm) or less in diameter, stretching from a short stocky rhizome [35]. These fine roots may stretch laterally up to 10 inches (25 cm) and up to 31 inches (78 cm) down through the soil [35]. At 2 to 3 inches (5-8 cm) below the soil surface, lateral roots branch and rebranch continuously forming a dense, soil binding mat [35].




Regeneration is accomplished by seed which sets May to August [51] and by tillering from residual plant parts [123]. A prolific seed producer [31,34,50,60,91], one panicle of sand dropseed has yielded 10,000 seeds [22]. Sand dropseed produces small seed (5,298,000 seeds/lb) [4]. During seed maturation, the upper leaf sheath partially encloses the inflorescence. As the sheath weathers away, seed is disseminated [41]. Weathering of the previous growing season's leaf sheath and dispersal of seed may continue after new growth begins [31]. Rabbits may also be involved in dissemination of seed [21,108].

Contribution of seed to the seed bank is well documented, even within sites where sand dropseed is currently missing [50,110] or low in coverage [29,101]. This large contribution to the seed bank, both within and outside of sand dropseed communities, is consistent with the small seed size and wind dispersal [34]. An evaluation in western Iowa observed a large contribution of viable seed to the seed bank of a deciduous woodland (Cornus and Ulnus spp.) downhill from a ridge top grassland [110].

The number of viable seeds produced and relative seedling vigor are extremely variable for sand dropseed [1,32,39,76,110]. An evaluation in Colorado reported excellent germination and rapid growth [32]. Other studies have found sub-optimal germination and seedling response [39,76]. Compared to other species within the Kansas mixed-grass prairie, sand dropseed produces larger numbers of seed during periods of water stress [22]. In general, seedlings are usually slow to develop [6] but are persistent and drought resistant [6,60].

Studies evaluating germination cues recognize several methods to increase germination. Pricking seeds and scarifying with coarse sand helps germination [74]. Trampling by cattle provides another form of physical scarification. Good response was seen in burned blackbrush (Coleogyne ramosissima spp.) areas aerially seeded and then trampled by cattle [67].

A warm temperature germination requirement suggests seedling emergence and survival are related to late spring environmental conditions [68]. Alternating temperatures between cold and warm gives the best germination responses. The presence of light in conjunction with alternating temperatures also increases germination percentages. For specific temperatures and alternation times please see references [112,114].

In the Nebraska sandhills, the highest germination percent came from seeds within the top 2 inches (5cm) of the soil [101].



Sand dropseed occurs in several soil types [103,123,132] and elevations [123] with site characteristics varying according to region. Within the Nebraska sandhills, preferred sites are sandier areas [136] of dry valley bottoms and dune base slopes [47]. Clay soils [36,103], silty clay loam [36], sandy loam [34], sandy alluvial soils [71], and gravelly soils [31,123,130] are also inhabited. In general, open [102] and disturbed areas with permeable, sandy soils [69,70,102] are preferred. Dry sandy ridges and plains are preferred in south-central New Mexico [26]. In southern Ontario, dry prairies with coarse sand and sandy loam are preferred [41].

Although sand dropseed prefers well-drained and permeable soils, populations are not restricted. Areas subjected to seasonal flooding are also inhabited by sand dropseed. Sand dropseed occurs under cottonwoods (Populus spp.) within intermittent streambeds [3] and upland areas of playa lakes [63]. Sand dropseed is also found within cottonwood communities of the South Platte and Arkansas river floodplains. [86].

Sand dropseed does not require high amounts of soil moisture. Populations are widespread in the Great Basin where summer rains are inconsistent from year to year and moderate in long-term averages [30].

Some states and relative elevational ranges where sand dropseed occurs:

Arizona 200 to 7000 feet (60-2100 m)[70]
California 100 to 900 feet (30-270 m)
Colorado 3500 to 8000 feet (1100-2400 m)
Utah up to 7,000 feet [130]


Sand dropseed is a colonizer of drought disturbed and previously cultivated lands. Invasion and establishment upon previously abandoned cultivated lands in the southern plains has been observed [132]. Within semi-arid mixed prairie landscapes, sand dropseed is one of the 1st to colonize denuded sandy to silty soil rangelands [60]. Sand dropseed was the principle grass within a field 14 years out of cultivation in Colorado [32]. Sand dropseed is also good at colonizing open spaces associated with heavy grazing [95].

In Texas, sand dropseed is a common invader of short-grass and mid-height grass mesquite/buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) communities [11].


Phenology of sand dropseed corresponds to water availability. Sand dropseed has almost immediate response to available soil moisture [26]. In general, sand dropseed starts growth late spring [24,103,130] with seed maturing late summer to early fall [22,123]. This is slightly different in arid habitats. In the Chihuahuan desert of New Mexico, flowering was observed to begin in August with fruiting occurring in October [78]. Development occurs rapidly during periods of abundant moisture [26] with induced dormancy during periods of drought between rains [26]. Large amounts of late summer precipitation provide for the possibility of 2 or more reproductive phases [15].


SPECIES: Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sand dropseed is usually killed or topkilled by fire [60,105,120]. Sand dropseed has the potential for postfire regeneration and seedling establishment as seeds within burned areas may remain viable [1]. However, the degree of postfire seedling establishment relative to unburned areas is under debate [1,87]. Postfire regeneration responses may differ according to relative abiotic and biotic site characteristics [1,87].

The following table describes historic fire regimes for many communities where sand dropseed occurs.
Community or Ecosystem Dominant Species Fire Return Interval Range in Years
California chaparral Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp. < 35 to < 100
bluestem prairie Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium < 10 [23,82]
Nebraska sandhills prairie Andropogon gerardii var. paucipilus-Schizachyrium scoparium < 10
sagebrush steppe Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata 20-70 [23]
basin big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata 12-43 [113]
mountain big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana 5-15 [140]
Wyoming big sagebrush Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis 10-70 (40)** [131,140]
coastal sagebrush Artemisia californica < 35 to < 100
saltbush-greasewood Atriplex confertifolia-Sarcobatus vermiculatus < 35 to < 100
desert grasslands Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica 5-100
plains grasslands Bouteloua spp. < 35
blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii < 35
blue gramma-buffalo grass Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides < 35
grama-galleta steppe Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis jamesii < 35 to < 100
blue grama-tobosa prairie Bouteloua gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica < 35 to < 100
cheatgrass Bromus tectorum < 10
blackbrush Coleogyne ramosissima < 35 to < 100
Arizona cypress Cupressus arizonica < 35 to 200
California steppe Festuca-Danthonia spp. < 35
juniper-oak savanna Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana < 35
western juniper Juniperus occidentalis 20-70
Rocky Mountain juniper Juniperus scopulorum < 35
pinyon-juniper Pinus-Juniperus spp. < 35
Pacific ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. ponderosa 1-47
Rocky Mountain ponderosa pine* Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum 2-10
mesquite Prosopis glandulosa < 35 to < 100
mesquite-buffalo grass Prosopis glandulosa-Buchloe dactyloides < 35
Texas savanna Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa < 10
California oakwoods Quercus spp. < 35
oak-hickory Quercus-Carya spp. < 35
oak-juniper woodland (Southwest) Quercus-Juniperus spp. < 35 to < 200
northeastern oak-pine Quercus-Pinus spp. 10 to < 35
oak savanna Quercus macrocarpa/Andropogon gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium 2-14
shinnery Quercus mohriana < 35
chestnut oak Q. prinus 3-8
northern red oak Quercus rubra 10 to < 35
post oak-blackjack oak Quercus stellata-Q. marilandica < 10
black oak Quercus velutina < 35
live oak Quercus virginiana 10 to< 100 [23]
*fire return interval varies widely; trends in variation are noted in the species summary

Tussock graminoid
Initial colonizer - on-site seed Secondary colonizer - on-site seed


Sporobolus cryptandrus

Sand dropseed is consumed rapidly by fire [120]. Individual plants are badly damaged [60,105] to completely killed by fire, with younger plants suffering less than older plants [64].


No Entry


The extent of damage imposed by fire upon sand dropseed is related to season of burn. Early spring burns show positive responses in sand dropseed. Within a western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) community in South Dakota, a spring burn saw increased sand dropseed standing crop for 3 and 4 postburn years [134]. Results for two year successional spring burns in South Dakota also showed increased sand dropseed standing crop [134]. Spring burning in southern Nebraska was associated with positive sand dropseed response [115].

Under periods of water stress sand dropseed's ability to withstand fire is inhibited [60,139]. Drought and fire together cause greater deleterious effects than fire in wet periods [138]. In the northern Great Plains, sand dropseed is usually harmed by fire; however, tolerance to fire was observed when winter and spring precipitation reached levels 40% greater than normal [60]. During wet years (0-40% above normal precipitation) small and medium sized sand dropseed showed no negative responses to fire [137]. Effects are generally negatively associated when sand dropseed is actively growing compared to dormant phases [7,128].



A cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum)-sand dropseed-red threeawn grassland community in Utah was evaluated for 5 years to determine response to fire. The foliage cover (% of surface covered) before and after the fire (1956) was as follows [27]:

1955 1957 1958 1960 1961
cheatgrass 37.9 64.2 55.5 59.2 63.3
sand dropseed 14.2 10.9 7.6 9.6 7.3
red threeawn 11.5 3.4 6.2 9.9 5.0

Few sand dropseed plants were completely killed by the fire [27].

Sand dropseed phytomass was observed after an October lightning fire in a Nebraska sandhills grassland. Results for the following growing season are summarized below [92]:

Burned Area Phytomass g/m2
June July August October
3.0 4.7 7.6 11.7

Unburned Area Phytomass g/m2
June July August October
4.6 2.7 4.7 8.7

The percent occurrence of sand dropseed was monitored 4 and 8 years following a spring burn within a redberry juniper habitat in Texas. No significant differences were seen at 4 and 8 years postburn when compared to the unburned control [84]. In the Texas high plains, a decrease in basal diameter was observed with burns two years in a row, regardless of burn season (spring or fall). Single burns resulted in both increased diameters and no change. Seed stalk production decreased with fall and spring burning [128].


In general sand dropseed has the ability to show positive responses to fire in conjunction with reduced competition from neighboring species [134].

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