Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Simonin, Kevin A. 2001. Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens.
In: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service,
Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
Images were added on 13 September 2018, and the common name of Bromus madritensis was changed from soft chess to compact brome.
For red brome:
Anisantha madritensis (L.) Nevski 
B. madritensis subsp. rubens (L.) Husnot [41,46]
NRCS PLANT CODE: 
This Species Review covers 2 related brome species: compact brome (Bromus madritensis L.) and red brome (Bromus rubens L.) (Poaceae).
Although the 2 bromes are treated as separate species in this review, FEIS recognizes that there is taxonomic disagreement about Bromus madritensis in the
strict sense. Some systematists recognize compact brome and red brome as 2 subspecies of Bromus madritensis:
1) the type subspecies (Bromus madritensis subsp. madritensis) and
2) red brome (Bromus madritensis subsp. rubens (L.) Husnot)
[41,46]. There is consensus that the 2 entities are very closely related
[1,84], with both
scientific names used in current literature.
This Species Review considers Bromus madritensis in the broad sense. Following the systematics of several authorities, this review uses the scientific name Bromus madritensis L. for compact brome and Bromus rubens L. for red brome [36,47,49,80,82,
81,83]. Studies concerning United States populations
of B. m. subsp. rubens may be interpreted as B. rubens [1,84]. Where possible, distinctions are made between compact brome (B. madritensis)
and red brome (B. rubens). The common name compact brome may apply to either taxon
when the literature cited did not distinguish between
compact brome and red brome in areas where their distributions overlap (mostly California).
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
The California Exotic Pest Plant Council includes compact brome on the A-1
list: Most invasive wildland pest plants; widespread .
DISTRIBUTION AND OCCURRENCE
SPECIES: Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
Compact brome is native throughout Europe and the British Isles
[36,41,46,49,76,80,83]. In western North America, it occurs widely in coastal
and central California and is also recorded from Reno,
Nevada, and Portland, Oregon [66,84]. It has a scattered distribution to the
east, occurring in Michigan, Virginia, and Mississippi . It is also
introduced in Hawaii .
Red brome is native to southern Europe . In North America, it is
distributed from central Washington south to Baja California and east to central
Idaho, southwestern Texas, and Sonora [66,84]. It is casually adventive in the
Northeast  and introduced in Hawaii .
|Distributions of compact brome (left) and red brome (right) in the United States. Maps courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database.
National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC. [2018, September 13] .
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES30 Desert shrub
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES40 Desert grasslands
FRES42 Annual grasslands
STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
6 Upper Basin and Range
7 Lower Basin and Range
KUCHLER  PLANT ASSOCIATIONS:
K027 Mesquite bosques
K030 California oakwoods
K035 Coastal sagebrush
K038 Great Basin sagebrush
K043 Paloverde-cactus shrub
SAF COVER TYPES :
249 Canyon live oak
250 Blue oak-foothills pine
255 California coast live oak
SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :
201 Blue oak woodland
202 Coast live oak woodland
205 Coastal sage shrub
206 Chamise chaparral
207 Scrub oak mixed chaparral
208 Ceanothus mixed chaparral
209 Montane shrubland
211 Creosotebush scrub
214 Coastal prairie
215 Valley grassland
401 Basin big sagebrush
413 Gambel oak
414 Salt desert shrub
503 Arizona chaparral
507 Palo verde-cactus
HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES:
Compact brome and red brome are invasive weeds. They are most prevalent in desert shrub and annual grassland communities
California: Compact brome is a dominant invader of the historical perennial grasslands of California
[2,5]. It is widely distributed over central and southern California . It has also invaded
steppe ecosystems of the southern San Joaquin Valley, the Great Basin,
and the Mojave Desert .
Common grass associates of compact brome within the western foothill annual
grassland of the Sierra Nevada
soft chess (Bromus mollis), ripgut brome (B. diandrus),
compact fescue (Vulpia myuros), slender wildoat (Avena barbata), California melic
(Melica californica), and Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda).
Common forbs include cutleaf filaree (Erodium cicutarium), Napa thistle (Centaurea melitensis),
clover (Trifolium spp.), hairy lotus (Lotus subpinatus), and godetia (Godetia dudleyana) .
Common associates in California oak savannah include blue oak (Quercus douglasii),
interior live oak (Q. wislizenii) [27,32], valley oak (Q. lobata) ,
gray pine (Pinus sabiniana) [27,32], and
California buckeye (Aesculus californica) . Common shrub associates include
wedgeleaf ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus) and chaparral whitethorn (C. leucodermis).
Soft chess, ripgut brome , slender wildoat,
wild oat (A. fatua) [32,78], mouse barley (Hordeum leporium) , and
fescue (Festuca spp.) 
are common grasses. Common forb
associates include cutleaf filaree [27,32], longbeak storksbill
(Erodium botrys), burclover (Medicago polymorpha), and clover .
Common coastal sage scrub shrub associates of compact brome include black sage (Salvia mellifera) and
California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) .
Classifications describing plant communities in
which compact brome is a dominant species are as follows:
Nevada: Red brome is a dominant annual of blackbrush (Coleogyne
ramosissima) communities at 4,000 to 5,000 feet (1,200-1,500 m).
In the western Yucca Flat of southern Nevada, red brome is a member of creosotebush (Larrea tridentata)-blackbrush
transition communities between 4,000 and 4,300 feet (1,200-1,300 m), and is infrequent in creosotebush
associations between 3,000 and 4,000 feet (900-1,200 m). Red brome is abundant within
creosotebush-saltbush (Atriplex spp.)-blackbrush communities . Red brome is a prominent
member of blackbrush communities within the Mojave Desert [11,20].
Utah: Red brome is common in blackbrush, juniper (Juniperus spp.), creosotebush , and sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia) [64,70]
communities of Utah. It is most commonly found at base of shrubs in shadscale and white burrobush (Hymenoclea salsola)
Arizona: Red brome is an invader of Arizona desert scrub . It is also an invasive understory
species of mature mesquite bosques (Prosopis spp.),
which were historically open with a ground cover of saltbushes or annual and
perennial native grasses and forbs .
BOTANICAL AND ECOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS
SPECIES: Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS:
Compact brome and reed brome are a cool-season  exotic annual grasses with culms from 4 to 28 inches (10-70 cm) tall. Their inflorescence is a panicle, 1 to 4 inches (3-11 cm) tall,
with long awns . Compact brome is distinguished from red brome by having relatively hairier stems and leaf sheaths, more lax
panicles, and wider
Compact brome is drought resistant, with high water-use efficiency [10,21].
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Compact brome germinates well under the winter temperature regime of southern California .
Sunlight may enhance germination at higher temperatures. Freshly harvested red brome
seeds are unable to germinate in the dark at temperatures
above 59 degrees Fahrenheit (15 °C), but freshly harvested seeds usually germinate in the dark
at temperatures between 41 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit (5-15 °C). White light inhibits germination
even at low irradiance. Dry storage at 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 °C) removes the inhibitory
effects of higher temperatures ( > 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 °C)), widening the
seeds' temperature range for germination and eliminating their sensitivity to light .
Red brome germinates at a less exact rainfall and temperature requirement than native species .
In general, fall rains promote germination and establishment .
In blackbrush communities of southern Nevada, Beatley  found red brome germination
followed heavy rains (> 1 inch (3 cm)) between October and December. However, germination is not limited
to fall and may occur following heavy spring rains.
Laude  evaluated seedling emergence from freshly harvested and stored red
brome seeds, which were were planted in a greenhouse setting and monitored for 28 days. Increased
storage time increased percent emergence, with germinants achieving 100% emergence in October,
5 months after mid-June seed collection.
High levels of cadmium and nickel impair emergence of red brome .
Compact brome and red brome prefer disturbed sites in Mediterranean climates [41,66]. Elevational ranges
are described below by state:
compact brome, red brome
|| 7,200 feet (2,200 m) 
|| 1,200 to 6,000 feet ( 370-1,800m) [44,48]
|| 4,000 to 5,000 feet (1,200-1,500 m) 
||3,000 to 5,000 feet (910-1,520 m) 
Regional: In California, compact brome prefers areas receiving less than 9.8 inches (250 mm)
annual rainfall . Compact brome is a dominant species in California valley grasslands receiving
less than 7.5 inches (190 mm) rainfall , and is abundant in California valley grasslands receiving
less than 12 inches (305 mm) annual precipitation. In areas
with annual precipitation greater than 12 inches (305 m), compact brome is replaced by soft chess
Bowers  monitored the relative abundance of northern Mojave Desert annuals over 6 years
in relation to precipitation. Red brome density was highest during years
receiving 2.4 to 4.2 inches (63-109 mm) precipitation; results are summarized below:
Pre-census precipitation (mm) between 1970-1976:
||Mean red brome/0.25m2
Soils: Red brome commonly
occurs in small patches on shallow soils, growing best where there is little competition from other annuals .
In southern Nevada, red brome occupies blackbrush communities with coarse-textured
soils, showing best growth under shrubs and peripheries of shrub canopies . Upland clay and sandy loam
ranges and rolling sandy hills receiving
8 to 12 inches (203-305 mm) precipitation promote good growth in southern Utah
Red brome is often found in areas with relatively high levels of sulfur dioxide
The presence of compact brome and red brome are closely related to annual precipitation.
They are commonly early or mid-seral species where annual
precipitation is greater than 9.8 inches (250 mm) .
Red brome is commonly an early to mid-seral species in California chaparral. It is usually sparse in early succession
of northern California but may increase rapidly in areas of low soil fertility and moisture .
population numbers require several years for seed dispersal into burns or buildup from on-site producers.
Continued disturbance such as grazing and repeated low-severity fires favor red brome over native
early-seral chaparral species .
Within blackbrush communities of Nevada, red brome persists in high-density stands for many
In general, red brome initiation and establishment is a direct response to fall rains. Initial
growth is relatively slow, followed by a rapid increase in vegetative growth coinciding with warming spring
temperatures . Flowering and fruiting generally
occur in April and May . Seeds are disseminated in summer .
No profound phenological differences are apparent between red brome individuals from the Mediterranean
and California regions . However, Wu and Jain  have observed phenological variation in seed weight,
lemma length, plant height, and tiller production between populations
of different environments.
SPECIES: Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS:
Red brome generally shortens fire return intervals [59,60,87].
The increased presence of red brome
has promoted fires in areas where fire was previously infrequent due to insufficient
. Once established red brome may increase fire frequency by enhancing potential for start
and spread . In general, red brome produces an abundant and continuous cover of persistent fine fuels,
promoting fast, "hot" fires .
Desert: Areas of the Mojave Desert dominated by red brome are more susceptible to
fire than areas dominated by native forbs. Dead red brome culms and blades are persistent
(commonly 2 years); herbage of most Mojave Desert annual species usually lasts 1
year or less.
Red brome produces high amounts of persistent flammable fuels in perennial
plant interspaces, promoting ignition and spread .
Heat generated by burning red brome is sufficient to ignite and consume dead stems of native
Mojave Desert forbs. Flames may
also consume small shrubs such as white bursage (Ambrosia dumosa), winterfat (Krascheninnikovia lanata),
white burrobush, and Anderson wolfberry (Lycium andersonii).
However, flames fueled by red brome are generally insufficient to ignite large shrubs such as
creosote bush .
Within the Sonoran Desert, dead and dry red brome is easily ignited, supporting fast-moving surface fires . Fire return
intervals are also shortened, changing the vegetal composition through increase of non-native
components and loss of native plant species .
The invasion of red brome has contributed to short fire return intervals and the subsequent degradation of
chaparral . Keeley  has observed shorter fire intervals (< 10 years) resulting from the increased
presence of red brome and other exotic annuals. Greater fire frequency has promoted
the degradation of native herb communities and promoted communities of chaparral shrubs with an exotic,
annual understory . Dead stems and litter are persistent, promoting spread of
fire in shrub communities, especially across areas between shrubs and trees [44,87].
O'Leary and Westman  attribute red brome within early postfire coastal sage scrub
communities to off-site seed sources.
As nonnative species, compact brome and red brome have no historic fire regime in North America.
The following table provides some fire regime intervals for areas where compact brome
and red brome presently occur. Compact brome and red brome may alter fire intervals within these communities. Find further fire regime information for the plant communities in which these
species may occur by entering the species' names in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".
||Adenostoma and/or Arctostaphylos spp.
||< 35 to < 100
||Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata
||< 35 to < 100
|California montane chaparral
||Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp.
||Cercidium microphyllum/Opuntia spp.
||< 35 to < 100
|mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub
||Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii
||< 35 to < 100
||< 35 to < 100
||< 35 to < 100
||Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa
|oak-juniper woodland (Southwest)
||< 35 to < 200
|blue oak-foothills pine
||Quercus douglasii-Pinus sabiana
|interior live oak
||< 35 
POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :
Initial off-site colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Secondary colonizer (on-site or off-site seed sources)
SPECIES: Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT:
Fire kills compact brome and red brome .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Red brome establishes from on- or off-site seed sources following fire .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Red brome showed dramatic increases in the Sonoran Desert following prescribed burns
in a desert scrub of paloverde, buckhorn cholla (Opuntia acanthocarpa), and
Results are summarized below :
Cover (%) within open microhabitat:
||12 postfire months (1985)
||24 postfire months (1985)*
||36 postfire months (1986)*
Cover (%) in shrub microhabitat:
*Coverage data taken from areas burned in 1983
||12 postfire months (1985)
||24 postfire months (1985)*
||36 postfire months (1986)*
Davis and Hickson  evaluated postfire vegetation
development within coastal chaparral of California. Past fires in the area studied was
either accidental or
planned burns. Areas sampled ranged from 1 to 50 years since fire. Overall, red
brome showed greater frequency of occurrence within oak plots than in
Red brome was an important invader of chamise chaparral in the 3rd and 5th postfire seasons,
slowly disappearing with increased brush cover. Before fires, red brome was restricted to
trails, firebreaks, and openings .
Red brome was a dominant species on western and southern slopes (330 feet (100 m)) the first
2 years after fire in California coastal sage scrub. Postfire annual precipitation was 1 to 5 times
greater than mean annual precipitation .
Fall burns: Red brome and California buckwheat were dominant species 5 years
after a September wildfire in a 7-year-old rockrose (Cistus spp.) field, originally
planted from nursery grown seedlings. The wildfire occurred on a 30 to 35 degree north facing slope at
2,700 feet (820 m). .
Hansen  observed postfire coverage of red brome after fall prescribed burns in the Tulare
Basin of California.
Seasonal precipitation directly influenced red brome postfire response. One-year postfire
cover of red brome was equal to or greater than control plot coverage when precipitation was below average and
the majority of precipitation occurred in the fall (September-November). In contrast, red brome
presence was greatly reduced in the 1st and 2nd postfire growing season if greater than
normal precipitation occurred in fall and spring. Repeated burning had the greatest negative
effect on red brome numbers, resulting in large decreases even in wet years.
Spring burns: Cave  monitored 1- and 2-year postfire vegetation response in the
Sonoran Desert after a 12 June 1981 controlled burn and a 26 April 1980
wildfire. Sites were at 1,500 feet (450 m) on a paloverde (Cercidium microphyllum)-cactus (Opuntia
spp.)-triangle bursage association. Red brome density was reduced by 96 to 98%
1st postfire year compared to unburned and prefire controlled burn sites, respectively. Biomass
was reduced by 70 and 65%, with cover showing 86 and 80% reductions.
Precipitation prior to and during the 1982 growing season was less than
precipitation in 1981.
Red brome dominated blackbrush areas 1 year after a "hot" spring wildfire .
For information on response of red brome and other annual grassland herbs
to prescribed fire, see Hansen's  thesis:
The effect of fire and fire
frequency on grassland species composition in California's Tulare Basin.pdf.
FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
O'Leary and Westman  suggest off-site seed as a source of red brome within early postfire coastal sage scrub
Stipa spp. have successfully competed with red brome within perennial grasslands of Camp Pendleton,
California, subjected to annual burning .
Shrublands: Within the Mojave Desert of Arizona, red brome prefers disturbed sites, especially
areas where shrubs have been removed by fire.
Red brome readily invades blackbrush communities susceptible to fire. Once established
red brome increases fire frequency by enhancing the potential for start and spread .
Red brome shows vigorous vegetative growth in blackbrush communities where shrubs have been removed by
fire. Red brome is prominent the first 2 to 3 postfire years in blackbrush communities,
after which perennial grasses and shrubs dominate .
Wildfires in California chaparral occur during hot dry summer months.
Prescribed burning usually occurs during winter months, resulting in low-intensity burns. Red brome is a dominant
species following winter fires. Temperatures of low-intensity winter fires are
not high enough to kill red brome seeds .
Fire spread is extensive and rapid when red brome is codominant with
Schismus spp. in native perennial
interspaces of the Mojave Desert. Data for experimental fires conducted in August of 1995 are presented below. Fine fuels are presented in
kg/ha, dominant annuals are those with > 25% relative cover .
For further information on this study, see the Research Project Summary Nonnative annual grass fuels and fire in
California's Mojave Desert.
||Beneath canopy fuel
||Dominant annuals, beneath canopy
||Dominant annuals, interspace
||Interspace fire spread (m/minute)
||Area burned (% of 2.25 ha)
SPECIES: Bromus madritensis, Bromus rubens
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
In general, compact brome and red brome are of little value to livestock and big game. The long awns of red brome
are harmful to livestock when seeds are ripe . Under some circumstances, red brome
may provide a source of forage. Krausman and others  observed light desert mule deer
use (< 1% of seasonal diet)
of red brome in Arizona. Desert bighorn sheep also use red brome .
Desert cottontail prefer red brome. Heaviest use occurs in winter .
The palatability of red brome to livestock and
wildlife in Utah has been rated as follows :
|Upland game bird
|Small nongame bird
The calcium:phosphorous ratio for red brome is 1:2 .
Seegmiller and others  conducted a nutritional analysis of red brome within the Harlequin Mountains, Arizona. Red
brome parts selected for analysis (leaves, flowers, new growth) were those used by desert bighorn sheep. Results (mean %)
are presented below:
Compact brome provides fair cover for small mammals and small nongame birds .
VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
OTHER USES AND VALUES:
OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Red brome is common in open canopies of Arizona chaparral subjected to heavy grazing .
Betancout  attributes red brome expansion in the Upper
Sonoran Desert of central and southern Arizona to climate change. Since 1976, increased winter precipitation has promoted the
spread of red brome.
In relatively dry areas of the Southwest, red brome may displace native species during wetter years [4,14,44].
Relatively drier winters and wetter summers may slow the red brome invasion .
The smut Ustilago bullata is common on red brome in Nevada. Infected plants produce
fewer viable seeds than uninfected plants .
In California chaparral, fall germination of compact brome gives the grass a competitive
advantage over shrub seedlings, which usually germinate in spring .
Compact brome competes with California sagebrush (Artemisia californica)
seedlings during their 1st growing season. Planting shrubs that are 1 or more
years old increases their competitive ability against red brome . Bartolome and others  found mulch
provided no significant (p > 0.05) benefit to standing crops compact
areas of California receiving less than 9.8 inches (250 mm) annual precipitation.
Compact brome is an annual weed in California cereal crops .
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