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SPECIES:  Buchloe dactyloides
Buffalograss growing in White Rock, New Mexico. Photo by
Marilyn Phillips,


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : Howard, Janet L. 1995. Buchloe dactyloides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [].
ABBREVIATION : BUCDAC SYNONYMS : NO-ENTRY SCS PLANT CODE : BUDA COMMON NAMES : buffalograss TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name of buffalograss is Buchloe dactyloides (Nutt.) Engelm. (Poaceae). There are no infrataxa. Buchloe is a monotypic genus [48,53,60,61]. LIFE FORM : Graminoid FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : Buffalograss is distributed from central Montana east to Minnesota and south to eastern coastal Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, eastern Arizona, and northern Mexico [48,53].  It is incidental in northern Idaho [95] and Virginia [79]. ECOSYSTEMS :    FRES15  Oak-hickory    FRES21  Ponderosa pine    FRES32  Texas savanna    FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe    FRES35  Pinyon-juniper    FRES38  Plains grasslands    FRES39  Prairie    FRES40  Desert grasslands STATES :      AZ  CO  ID  IA  KS  LA  MN  MO  MT  NE      NM  ND  OK  SD  TX  VA  WY BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS :     7  Lower Basin and Range    10  Wyoming Basin    11  Southern Rocky Mountains    13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont    14  Great Plains    15  Black Hills Uplift    16  Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS :    K017  Black Hills pine forest    K023  Juniper-pinyon woodland    K031  Oak-juniper woodlands    K044  Creosotebush-tarbush    K053  Grama-galleta steppe    K054  Grama-tobosa prairie    K058  Grama-tobosa shrubsteppe    K059  Trans-Pecos shrub savanna    K060  Mesquite savanna    K061  Mesquite-acacia savanna    K064  Grama-needlegrass-wheatgrass    K065  Grama-buffalograss    K066  Wheatgrass-needlegrass    K067  Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass    K068  Wheatgrass-grama-buffalograss    K069  Bluestem-grama prairie    K074  Bluestem prairie    K075  Nebraska Sandhills prairie    K084  Cross Timbers    K085  Mesquite-buffalograss    K087  Mesquite-oak savanna    K096  Northeastern spruce-fir forest SAF COVER TYPES :     40  Post oak-blackjack oak     66  Ashe juniper-redberry (Pinchot) juniper     68  Mesquite    237  Interior ponderosa pine    239  Pinyon-juniper    242  Mesquite SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES :    412  Juniper-pinyon woodland    504  Juniper-pinyon pine woodland    505  Grama-tobosa shrub    601  Bluestem prairie    604  Bluestem-grama prairie    605  Sandsage prairie    606  Wheatgrass-bluestem-needlegrass    607  Wheatgrass-needlegrass    608  Wheatgrass-grama-needlegrass    609  Wheatgrass-grama    611  Blue grama-buffalograss    615  Wheatgrass-saltgrass-grama    701  Alkali sacaton-tobosagrass    703  Black grama-sideoats grama    704  Blue grama-western wheatgrass    705  Blue grama-galleta    706  Blue grama-sideoats grama    709  Bluestem-grama    710  Bluestem prairie    711  Bluestem-sacahuista prairie    712  Galleta-alkali sacaton    713  Grama-muhly-threeawn    714  Grama-bluestem    715  Grama-buffalograss    717  Little bluestem-Indiangrass-Texas wintergrass    718  Mesquite-grama    720  Sand bluestem-little bluestem (dunes)    727  Mesquite-buffalograss    728  Mesquite-granjeno-acacia    729  Mesquite    732  Cross timbers-Texas (little bluestem-post oak)    733  Juniper-oak    734  Mesquite-oak    802  Missouri prairie HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Buffalograss is codominant with blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) over most of the shortgrass prairie [51].  It is a common component in mixed-grass prairie [3,30], semidesert grassland of New Mexico [17], and coastal prairie of Louisiana and Texas [33].  It is usually a minor element in undisturbed tallgrass prairie [26,46].  Buffalograss also occurs in the understory of pinyon-juniper (Pinus-Juniperus spp.), mesquite (Prosopis spp.), and eastern ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) woodland [8], and in oak-hickory (Quercus-Carya spp.) savanna of the Cross Timbers region of Texas [39]. Plant community classifications naming buffalograss as a community dominant are as follows: A framework for plant community classification and conservation in   Texas [33] Remnant grassland vegetation and ecological affinities of the upper   coastal prairie of Texas [34] A vegetation classification system for New Mexico, U.S.A. [37] Characteristics of major grassland types in western North Dakota [49] Distribution and ecology of loess hill prairies in Atchison and Holt   counties in northwestern Missouri [58] A study of the vegetation of the sandhills of Nebraska [75] Plant communities of Texas [91] Analysis of grassland vegetation on selected key areas in southwestern   North Dakota [109]


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Buffalograss is one of the most important forage grasses of the shortgrass and mixed-grass prairies.  All classes of livestock graze it during all seasons [59].  The foliage is nutritious and palatable when green, and its nutritional quality does not decline greatly as it cures [52,68]. Buffalograss is also important wildlife forage.  Wildlife consumers of Buffalograss include white-tailed deer [22], bison [73], pronghorn, black-tailed jackrabbit [38], and prairie dogs [24]. Buffalograss is especially important in bison [73] and black-tailed prairie dog diets [24].  Bison in northeastern Colorado consumed it year-round, with mean percent composition in their diet least in May (41%) and highest in August (84%) [73].  Black-tailed prairie dog also use it year-round, consuming all parts of the plant [13].  Annual black-tailed prairie dog consumption of buffalograss averaged 23 percent in western South Dakota, peaking in June and July (34%) and reaching a low in December (8%) [90]. Mountain plover nest on blue grama-buffalograss flats in Colorado [47]. PALATABILITY : Palatability of buffalograss has been rated good for cattle, domestic sheep, and horses [36].  Reitz and Morris [81] rated it one of the most palatable grasses in Montana.  Livestock utilization may vary by region and year, however.  In a cattle utilization study in South Dakota mixed-grass prairie, cattle selected several other graminoids over buffalograss even though buffalograss was the most productive graminoid on the study site [96]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE : Nutritional value of fresh, mature buffalograss in the United States was [70]:                    Percent dry matter          48.9 ash                  6.1 crude fiber         13.0 digestible protein    cattle             2.9   domestic sheep     2.9   domestic goats     2.7   horses             2.7   rabbits            2.9 The National Academy of Sciences [70] also provides nutritional analyses of fresh and cured buffalograss in other phenological stages (immature, dough stage, ripe, overripe), and for fresh buffalograss-western wheatgrass-bluestem (Grama spp.) mixes.  Energy (calories/kg) and mineral analyses of buffalograss are given.  Harlan [50] published a nutritional analysis of buffalograss seed. Dittberner and Olson [36] rated buffalograss fair in energy and protein value.  They rated its nutritional value for wildlife in several states as follows:                       UT      CO      MT      ND elk                   good    fair    poor    ---- mule deer             good    poor    poor    ---- white-tailed deer     ----    ----    ----    poor pronghorn             good    ----    ----    poor upland game birds     good    good    poor    poor waterfowl             fair    ----    ----    ---- nongame birds         good    ----    poor    ---- small mammals         good    good    poor    ---- COVER VALUE : Dittberner and Olson [36] rated the value of buffalograss in providing cover for wildlife as follows:                          WY       ND upland game birds       good     poor small nongame birds     good     poor small mammal cover      good     poor VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : Buffalograss sod is ranked superior in controlling erosion [100,106]. It has been ranked first among native grasses in controlling wind erosion [10].  It is recommended for rehabilitating surface-mined lands [92], and has been successfully established on bentonite [87] and coal mine [98] spoils. OTHER USES AND VALUES : Buffalograss is planted for lawns [42,66,103] and used in hayfield mixtures.  It is of limited use as a hay grass when planted alone, however, due to its short stature [89]. The sod houses of early Great Plains settlers were constructed mostly from buffalograss [52]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Buffalograss is highly resistant to grazing [5,9,16].  It usually increases under heavy grazing, especially at the expense of tallgrass species [51,76].  Its response to grazing may vary by site, however.  On the Central Plains Experimental Range in Colorado, Archer and Tieszen [9] found that buffalograss importance value increased with moderate to heavy continuous grazing on ridges and midridges, but decreased with such grazing on swales.  Importance value was low on all sites with light grazing.  Buffalograss responses to various other grazing regimes are described [66,74,93]. Buffalograss is highly drought resistant, although somewhat less so than blue grama [89]. Buffalograss seed is commercially available [43,81].  Guidelines for seeding buffalograss onto rangeland, or establishing it from cut sod, are available [10,21,31,43] Marcum and Engelke [65] provide field test results on buffalograss response to various pre- and postemergent herbicides.


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Buffalograss is a warm-season, native perennial shortgrass [20].  It is drought-, heat-, and cold-resistant [106].  Foliage is usually 2 to 5 inches (5-13 cm) high, though in the southern Great Plains foliage may reach 12 inches (30 cm) [55,100].  Buffalograss is usually dioecious. Plants are occasionally monoecious, sometimes with perfect flowers [48,49,54,61].  Flowerstalks are 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) tall [100]. The male inflorescence is a panicle; the female inflorescence consists of short spikelets borne in burlike clusters, usually with two to four spikelets per bur [48,104].

Buffalograss stolons. Photo by
Marilyn Phillips,

Buffalograss sends out numerous, branching stolons [54,106];
occasionally it also produces rhizomes [85].  Roots are also numerous
and thoroughly occupy the soil [100].  The numerous stolons and roots
form a dense sod [54,106].  Buffalograss roots are finer than those of
most plains grasses, being less than 1 mm in diameter.  Weaver [100]
found that in the Great Plains, buffalograss roots in silty loam
reached 5 feet below ground, with 70 percent of roots (by weight)
occurring in the first 6 inches (15 cm) of soil.


Primarily dioecious, buffalograss usually outcrosses by wind
pollination [77].  The monoecious sex form is more common in peripheral,
sparse populations, and monoecious plants may be self-fertile [56].  Seed
production on native grasslands in Kansas was greatest when
above-average rainfall occurred in May and June; seed production was
lowest when rainfall during that period was below average [27].  At
dispersal the entire bur, with seeds still inside, abscises from the
plant.  Burs usually disperse close to the parent plant; they cling only
briefly, if at all, to animals or clothing [76].  Fresh seed is usually
dormant, requiring abrasion or overwintering to break dormancy.  Degree
of dormancy, however, has been found to vary between populations [78].
Light is required for germination [43].  Ahring and Todd [2] found that
prechilling at 41 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (5-10 deg C), drying seeds
for 6 to 48 hours at 104 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (40-70 deg C), or
soaking seeds 1 to 72 hours in sodium hypochlorite greatly increased
germination.  Fulright and others [43] provide a summary of recommended
buffalograss seed stratification regimes.  Reports of germinative
capacity of fresh seed that has been stratified and scarified range from
45 to 70 percent.  Seed has remained viable in the seedbank for at least
7 years [29].  Twenty-five-year-old seed recovered from the walls of an
abandoned sod house in Kansas was 15 to 78 percent viable [64].
Germination rates are usually better when seed remains within the bur

In a seedbank study on the Central Plains Experimental Range, Colorado,
buffalograss seedling density in fine-textured soil samples gathered
over a 15-month sampling period averaged 112 plants per square meter
[25].  Seedlings grow rapidly under favorable conditions.  They have
produced stolons by 2 months of age.  By the end of their first summer,
seedlings grow a thick root mass that extends 2 feet (0.6 m) below
ground [100].

Vegetative reproduction through spreading stolons is rapid given
favorable environmental conditions [29].  Buffalograss stolons have
grown as rapidly as 2.25 inches (5.72 cm) per day [69].  Buffalograss
also spreads by tillering [106].  Following drought in western Kansas,
buffalograss cover increased vegetatively from 2 percent in 1940 to 93
percent in 1943.  Buffalograss has been reported to spread vegetatively
following depletion even when heavily grazed [101].  Although blue grama
is more drought resistant, buffalograss usually recovers more quickly
after drought through vegetative reproduction [29].

Buffalograss occurs on all soil textures [10,21].  It is most common on
clay, then fine-textured loam.  It is rare on sandy soils [10,81].
Soils supporting buffalograss are usually alkaline [10,19,49], with a
high water-holding capacity (33-66%) [49].  Buffalograss grows mostly
on dry uplands and/or disturbed sites in mixed- and tallgrass prairie
[3,48].  It grows best in regions of the Great Plains where annual
precipitation ranges between 12 and 25 inches (305 and 635 mm) [106].
It is widely adapted, however, to extremes in climate and elevation
[21,106].  Elevation at which buffalograss occurs ranges from 2,000
feet (600 m) in Montana to 6,300 feet (1,890 m) in Wyoming [36].

Buffalograss appears in early to mid-stage secondary succession [4].
Costello [28] described an old-field successional sequence in
north-central Colorado where the initial stage was dominated by annuals,
followed by perennial forbs.  Buffalograss appeared after the perennial
forbs, 10 to 20 years after abandonment. 

Buffalograss is common on disturbed sites such as prairie dog towns
[1,117].  In a pattern similar to old-field succession, buffalograss
established after forbs and three-awns (Aristida spp.) but before
mid-grasses such as silver bluestem (Bothriochloa saccharoides) and
sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) on an abandoned black-tailed
praire dog town in Oklahoma tallgrass prairie [71].

Buffalograss often establishes dominance in mixed-grass prairie with
drought or heavy grazing, and may invade tallgrass prairie under such
conditions [59,89].  Buffalograss may not require disturbance in order
to maintain dominance on all sites, however.  It dominated fine-textured
clay soils in a remnant mixed-grass Kansas prairie that had not been
grazed or burned for 68 years [57].  Van Auken and Bush [97] found that
honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa) was unable to
invade high-density buffalograsslands in Texas.

Buffalograss is somewhat shade tolerant, but cannot tolerate dense
shade [10,106].

Clements [23] described buffalograss-blue grama shortgrass prairie as
"proclimax:"  a community held indefinitely from reaching "climax
condition" by the natural disturbances of grazing and fire.

Buffalograss growth begins in late spring and continues through summer
[54,89].  In the Great Plains flowering occurs mostly from April to
June, but male plants may flower until late summer or fall [48].  Period
of heaviest flowering varies by location.  Flowering is reported from
July through August in eastern Colorado [35].  August flowering is also
reported from Kansas, with male plants beginning flowering slightly
before female plants [103].  Seed ripens from early summer to late fall,
depending upon location.  Early July seed ripening is reported from
Kansas [27].


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Fire was an essential component of presettlement prairie ecosystems [6,18,76,82,99,116].  Prior to European settlement, buffalograss probably burned in all seasons [12].  Areas dominated by warm-season grasses such as buffalograss can carry fire even in winter and early spring [12], and Native Americans apparently burned various portions of the prairie year-round [7]. Buffalograss survives grassland fire by several mechanisms.  Vegetative regeneration is probably most important.  Basal meristems are generally protected from grassland fire by soil and/or damp litter.  Some stolon apices are usually protected by damp litter [107].  Buffalograss regenerates after fire by basal tillering and sprouting from unburned stolon buds.  Recovery time greatly accelerates when plants become vigorous enough to spread by stolons.  Buffalograss also regenerates from seed following fire [108].  Because it is enclosed in a bur, buffalograss seed is more protected from fire than seed of most grass species.  Buffalograss burs have been shown to greatly reduce fire and heat damage to enclosed seed [76].  Regeneration from seed is slower than vegetative regeneration, however, and is probably most important when severe fire has killed a large proportion of stolon and basal buds. FIRE REGIMES : Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY :    Caudex, growing points in soil    Ground residual colonizer (on-site, initial community)


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Buffalograss is not completely consumed in most grassland fires. Typically the upper part of the plant burns, and damage to basal portions of the plant is uncommon [45,99].  With grassland fires, flames fanned by even light winds seldom stay in one spot long enough to produce high temperatures at the soil surface.  Fire intensities lethal to native perennial grasses such as buffalograss rarely, if ever, occur during prescribed grassland fire [45].  Even with wildfires, temperatures near perennating tissues at the soil surface are usually not lethal.  Unburned stubble often remains after fire has passed, and shallowly placed buds and seeds are unharmed [32 and references therein].  Wildfire occurring during drought, however, may generate temperatures high enough to kill buffalograss perennating buds [32,45]. Lethal temperatures may also occur at the soil surface if woody plant invasion into grassland has occurred.  Soil surface temperatures tend to rise when woody plants burn, and elevated temperatures last for longer periods of time [32]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Burning generally either favors buffalograss or has no long-term effect upon it [108,110].  In some studies, buffalograss productivity is unchanged or increases in the first postfire year [14,15].  Wright [110] concluded from several studies that in western Texas, buffalograss was neither harmed nor favored by fire.  In southern Nebraska, April burning of loess hill mixed-grass prairie had no significant (p=.1) effect on buffalograss cover the following June or September.  However, buffalo grass cover on burn plots had increased significantly compared to control plots by the second September after fire [84]. Fire had no long-term effect on buffalograss at the Kansas Agricultural Experimental Station.  Launchbaugh [63] reported that after a March wildfire in shortgrass prairie there, buffalograss cover at postfire year 1 was reduced by 48 percent on burned areas as compared to adjacent unburned areas; height at the end of the first growing season was 6.7 inches (17.0 cm) on burned sites and 11.9 inches (30.2 cm) on unburned sites.  By postfire year 2, buffalograss cover on burned sites was 39 percent less than on unburned sites, and by postfire year 3 there was no significant difference in buffalograss cover between burned and unburned sites. Buffalograss recovery time may vary depending upon phenological stage, season of burning, fire severity, and/or postfire weather conditions. In a bluestem (Andropogon gerardii and Schizachyrium scoparium) pasture in Kansas, buffalograss declined under 10 years of early (20 March) and late spring (1 May) annual burning compared to annual mid-spring (10 April) and no burning.  Buffalograss basal cover (%) after 10 years was [5]:                              Spring Burning                                       ---------------------------------                         unburned  early    mid-     late                         2.21a     1.08b    2.65a    1.37a                          ---------------------------------                    Percentages followed by the same letter                    do not differ significantly (p<0.05). Spring (April) prescribed burning in mixed-grass prairie in Badlands National Park, South Dakota, favored buffalograss.  Buffalograss began vegetative expansion and produced seed during the first growing season after fire [107].  Compared to the control (no burn), buffalograss standing crop increased for 2 to 3 postfire years, then returned to approximate prefire levels with onset of a drought [108]. Buffalograss increased significantly (p=0.05) after various treatments involving prescribed burning on the South Texas Plains-Texas Gulf Prairie interface.  Burning was effected to reduce woody plant invasion. Treatments were shredding, chopping, or scalping followed by prescribed burning 2 years later, and a control (prescribed burning only).  All prescribed burning was done in September 1965.  Percentage composition of buffalograss in July 1966 was [14]: -------------------------------------------------------------------------     Control       Shredded       Chopped       Scalped       Average     -------       --------       -------       -------       -------      U   B         U   B          U   B         U   B         U   B      13  15        11  12         6   17        6   17        9   15 ------------------------------------------------------------------------- U=unburned; B=burned Brush cover was significantly (p=0.05) reduced from prefire levels at postfire year 1, although less than 15 percent of woody plants were actually killed by the fire [14]. In another southern Texas study on the Rob and Bessie Welder Wildlife Refuge, plots were subjected to a fall (September) fire, a winter (December) fire, or a fall fire with a winter reburn the following year. Burning was conducted in 1965 and 1966.  Buffalograss production (lb/acre) in August 1967 was [15]:         Control          Fall          Winter          Fall & Winter           355             330            315               401 April prescribed burning in cultivated buffalograss in Kansas reduced subsequent summer seed yield.  Unburned portions of the field produced 303 pounds of buffalograss seed per acre compared to 79 pounds per acre on the burned portion [27]. See the Research Project Summary, Effects of spring prescribed fire and chaining on tobosa and buffalograss communities in Lynn County, Texas, for additional information on buffalograss response to prescribed fire and other manipulations. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Fall burning in a shortgrass-mixed-grass transition zone of the Flint Hills of Kansas reduced prairie threeawn (Aristida oligantha), an annual grass with little to no forage value for livestock, and increased relative abundance of the dominant perennial grasses, buffalograss and blue grama.  Percentages of total herbage production in fall, 1972, with no burning, fall burning, and spring burning, were [72]:             prairie threeawn     Perennial grasses     Western ragweed             ----------------     ------------------     --------------- unburned          73.7                  21.2                  5.0 spring (1)        84.0                  14.0                  2.0 fall (2)          13.7                  75.8                  7.0 ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 1=burned 4 April 1972; 2=burned 8 November 1971   April prescribed fire in mixed-grass prairie of southern Nebraska also reduced nonnative, cool-season annuals and increased the native, warm-season dominants, buffalograss and blue grama [84]. There was no significant relationship between fireline intensity and postfire response of buffalograss after spring burning in western Texas grassland.  High-intensity (approximately 5,570 kW/m) headfire did no more damage to buffalograss than low-intensity (approximately 70 kW/m) headfire [83]. Buffalograss mortality may be higher with backfires than headfires. Being more slow-moving, backfires tend to generate more heat at ground level [45]. Wright has provided prescriptions for burning buffalograss in the central and southern Great Plains [111], the Edwards Plateau [115] and Rio Grande Plains [113,114] regions of Texas, and in chained mesquite-tobosa communities [112].


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
FIRE CASE STUDY CITATION : Howard, Janet L., compiler. 1995. Buffalograss production after spring burning in Custer State Park, South Dakota. In: Buchloe dactyloides. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: /database/feis/ []. REFERENCE : Easterly, Thomas G.; Jenkins, Kurt J. 1991. Forage production and use on bighorn sheep winter range following spring burning in grassland and ponderosa pine habitats. Prairie Naturalist. 23(4): 193-200. [40]. SEASON/SEVERITY CLASSIFICATION : spring/variable STUDY LOCATION : The study area was on the north edge of French Creek Natural Area in Custer State Park, South Dakota. PREFIRE VEGETATIVE COMMUNITY : The study area was a mosaic of mixed-grass prairie and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) forest.  Prairie was dominated by buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides), bluegrasses (Poa spp.), gramas (Bouteloua spp.), and western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii).  The forest understory was dominated by sedges (Carex spp.) and bluegrasses. TARGET SPECIES PHENOLOGICAL STATE : NO-ENTRY SITE DESCRIPTION : General:  Site description was not given in detail.  Aspect and slope were variable.  Mean annual temperature at Custer, South Dakota (20 km northwest), was 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 deg C).  Mean annual precipitation was 18.4 inches (460 mm).  Annual precipitation at Custer State Park was 14.9 inches (372 mm) in 1987 and 13.5 inches (337 mm) in 1988. Burn days:  Peak temperature was 75 deg Fahrenheit (23 deg C) on 27 April 1987 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit (28 deg C) on 28 April 1987. Relative humidity ranged from 17 to 34 percent.  Winds were from the south to southeast at 13 to 42 miles per hour (8-25 km/hr).  Fine fuel moisture was approximately 5 percent. FIRE DESCRIPTION : Primary goals of the study were to reduce encroachment of ponderosa pine onto the prairie and increase forage available to bighorn sheep.  The 235-acre (94-ha) burn was conducted on 27 and 28 April 1987. Strip-firing techniques were used to meet different burn objectives in different areas.  In meadows and sites dominated by cool-season species, fire intensity was low and flame length was less than 12 inches (30 cm). Green-up of cool-season herbaceous species in the fall before the fire resulted in an incomplete burn pattern with large unburned patches. Sites dominated by warm-season species including buffalograss burned hotter than cool-season sites, with flame lengths of 18 to 30 inches (45-75 cm).  Fire intensities in forested areas varied widely depending upon fuels, aspect, time of day, and width of firing strip.  Some direct mortality of pines occurred due to fire in tree crowns. FIRE EFFECTS ON TARGET SPECIES : Percent cover of buffalograss in July was:                  1987                             1988            __________________               __________________            Burned    Unburned               Burned    Unburned               4         2                      5         3 FIRE MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS : Spring prescribed burning increased buffalograss cover within the 2-year study period, and reduced ponderosa pine cover. Burning in mixed-grass prairie increased production of forbs and warm-season grasses including buffalograss.  Utilization of herbaceous species by elk, deer, and bison was higher in burned than unburned areas.  Of all the Park ungulates, bison used the burns most intensively, with their use peaking in summer.  Prescribed burning did not, however, increase the amount of forage available to bighorn sheep in late summer and presumably, winter. Mortality of ponderosa pine over the study area was approximately 50 percent.  Pine expansion into mixed-grass prairie was curtailed.


SPECIES: Buchloe dactyloides
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