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Plants database provides a distributional map of
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES28 Western hardwoods
FRES34 Chaparral-mountain shrub
FRES36 Mountain grasslands
FRES38 Plains grasslands
STATES/PROVINCES: (key to state/province abbreviations)
In Wyoming, spike fescue may codominate grassland areas with Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis) , and may dominate the understory of limber pine (Pinus flexilis) communities in both Wyoming and Idaho [2,3,18,67]. Other associates in these communities include Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), common juniper (Juniperus communis), Rocky Mountain juniper (J. scopulorum), wax currant (Ribes cereum), big sagebrush, bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, grama grasses (Bouteloua spp.), prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), arrowleaf balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata), Cusick's bluegrass (Poa cusickii), and Ross' sedge (Carex rossii) [2,3,4,12,67].
In Colorado, spike fescue may codominate in interior ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum) communities; additional associates include Douglas-fir, limber pine, fringed sagebrush, wax currant, prairie Junegrass, Geyer's onion (Allium geyeri), and wormleaf stonecrop (Sedum stenopetalum) [3,37].
Big sagebrush/spike fescue/prairie Junegrass communities have been recorded in Nevada. Additional species present include low sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula), slender buckwheat (Eriogonum microthecum), mutton grass, oblongleaf bluebells (Mertensia oblongifolia), and Letterman needlegrass (Achnatherum lettermanii) .
Associates in other big sagebrush communities include Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), thickspike wildrye (Elymus macrourus), and western yarrow (Achillea millefolium) . In mountain big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. vaseyana), spike fescue commonly occurs with needle-and-thread grass (Hesperostipa comata), Columbia needlegrass (Achnatherum nelsonii), Idaho fescue, and bluegrasses (Poa spp.) [16,57]. In curlleaf mountain-mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius) communities, spike fescue associates include mountain snowberry (Symphoricarpos oreophilus), bluebunch wheatgrass, Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens), big sagebrush, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), and Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides) . In the plains grasslands, common associates of spike fescue are grama grasses, cheatgrass, wheatgrasses (Agropyron spp.), and buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides) .
Spike fescue is used as an indicator plant for forest habitat types in Idaho and Wyoming .
Classifications listing spike fescue as a plant community dominant include:
Spike fescue is a native, cool season perennial bunchgrass [14,41,42,43,70,76]. It grows in dense, erect culms 1 to 3 feet tall (30-90 cm), with old culms persistent [39,40,41,70,72,76]. Spike fescue often grows in a ring-like pattern, forming tufts up to 6.6 feet (2 m) in diameter .
Leaves have a smooth sheath and firm flat to involute blade 0.08 to 0.4 inch (2-10 mm) wide
[38,39,41,70,72,76]. The spike fescue inflorescence is a somewhat narrow, erect panicle 3
to 8 inches (7.6-20 cm) long with short, erect branches [24,38,39,40,41,70,72,76]. Spike fescue
produces awnless lemmas 0.2 to 0.3 inch (5-8 mm) long [26,39,40,72]. This species often produces
short rhizomes [15,33,38,41,72,76].
RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Spike fescue reproduces via seed and rhizomes .
Breeding system: Spike fescue is commonly dioecious [24,33,35,38,41,72,76].
Pollination: No information is available on this topic.
Seed production: No information is available on this topic.
Seed dispersal: Spike fescue seed is dispersed by wind .
Seed banking: No information is available on this topic.
Germination: No information is available on this topic.
Seedling establishment/growth: No information is available on this topic.
Spike fescue regenerates vegetatively via rhizomes [15,15,33,38,41,72,76].
Spike fescue occurs in habitats ranging from plains grasslands to subalpine forests and alpine meadows [42,48,50,59]. Plant communities are usually grassy or lightly wooded; spike fescue prefers open ridges and slopes (~40% grass cover) [33,41,60,76]. Spike fescue is commonly found on warm, xeric, even droughty sites. These include rolling hills, ridges, and talus slopes [2,3,18,35,40,43,59,69,72]. Slopes may range from gentle to steep [4,19,37,67], and spike fescue occurs on all aspects [18,37,53,59,67].
The following table summarizes information on the elevation distribution of spike fescue by state or region:
|California||9,500-11,000 feet (2,300-3,350 m)|||
|Colorado||5,500-10,000 feet (1,670-3,050 m)||[3,36]|
|Idaho||7,800-10,120 feet (2,400-3,080 m)||[59,67]|
|Montana||~9,500 feet (2,300 m)|||
|Nevada||6,000-11,300 feet (1,830-3,450 m)||[43,53]|
|Pacific Northwest||<11,000 feet (3,350 m)|||
|Utah||4,500-12,000 feet (1,370-3,660 m)||[39,57,59,72,76]|
|Wyoming||6,000-10,000 feet (1,830-3,050 m)||[3,4,18,41]|
Spike fescue grows on a range of parent materials, including calcareous , shale , metamorphic, igneous , dolomite, sandstone, and granite substrates . Soil textures range from stony and gravelly to clay-loam and silty [19,41,53,59,60]. However, spike fescue prefers moderately deep, well-drained, loamy soils [4,41,57,59] with a somewhat alkaline pH (e.g. 7.4) .
A dioecious plant, spike fescue exhibits habitat assortment by sex; a Wyoming study found
significantly fewer (p<0.001) female plants on more xeric sites, demonstrating a preference
for moist sites. Even on moist sites, female plants only constituted a maximum of 50% of the
individuals. On dry sites, female plants also tend to have fewer inflorescences per plant than
do male plants .
Spike fescue is considered to be an indicator of community climax in a number of sagebrush-grassland, mountain grassland, and drier forest habitat types. It grows as a topographic climax species on dry, stony, windswept ridges and other harsh microsites .
New growth arises from clumps of persistent sheaths and culms [20,49]. Flowering begins in June and ends in August .
Fire regimes: No information was found in the available literature regarding the relationship between fire regime and spike fescue. As a widely distributed species occurring in a variety of plant communities, spike fescue is subject to a range of fire regimes. The following list provides fire return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where spike fescue occurs. It may not be inclusive. Find further 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".
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|sagebrush steppe||Artemisia tridentata/Pseudoroegneria spicata||20-70 |
|basin big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. tridentata||12-43 |
|mountain big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. vaseyana||15-40 [8,17,52]|
|Wyoming big sagebrush||Artemisia tridentata var. wyomingensis||10-70 (40**) [74,80]|
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||< 35 [55,78]|
|blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass||Bouteloua gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii||< 35 [55,61,78]|
|blue grama-buffalo grass||Bouteloua gracilis-Buchloe dactyloides||< 35 [55,78]|
|California montane chaparral||Ceanothus and/or Arctostaphylos spp.||50-100 |
|curlleaf mountain-mahogany*||Cercocarpus ledifolius||13-1,000 [10,63]|
|mountain-mahogany-Gambel oak scrub||Cercocarpus ledifolius-Quercus gambelii||< 35 to < 100|
|western juniper||Juniperus occidentalis||20-70|
|Rocky Mountain juniper||Juniperus scopulorum||< 35 |
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||< 5-47+ [55,56,78]|
|blue spruce*||Picea pungens||35-200 |
|pinyon-juniper||Pinus-Juniperus spp.||< 35 |
|Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine||P. aristata||9-55 |
|whitebark pine*||Pinus albicaulis||50-200 [1,5]|
|Colorado pinyon||Pinus edulis||10-400+ [29,32,44,55]|
|Jeffrey pine||Pinus jeffreyi||5-30 |
|interior ponderosa pine*||Pinus ponderosa var. scopulorum||2-30 [7,11,47]|
|quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains)||Populus tremuloides||7-120 [7,34,51]|
|mountain grasslands||Pseudoroegneria spicata||3-40 (10**) [6,7]|
|Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir*||Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca||25-100 [7,8,9]|
|California oakwoods||Quercus spp.||< 35|
|canyon live oak||Quercus chrysolepis||<35 to 200 |
|1979 (preburn)||167 (190)|
|1983 (unburned)||34 (38)|
|1983 (burned)||118 (134)|
Palatability/nutritional value: Spike fescue is reportedly a highly nutritious, productive, and palatable grass . It is fairly palatable for cattle and domestic sheep in the spring [37,72,76]; however, as spike fescue matures in summer it becomes unpalatable and is grazed sparingly [72,76]. Palatability of spike fescue for livestock and wildlife species is listed below by state :
|small nongame birds||---||---||fair||---|
|upland game birds||---||---||fair||---|
Nutritional content (%) of spike fescue is as follows :
|Aerial part||Aerial part||Aerial part||Aerial part||Aerial part|
|Fresh||Fresh - Immature||Fresh - Early Bloom||Fresh - Mature||Overripe|
Cover value: Spike fescue provides some cover for smaller mammals and birds. Cover value in 2 western states has been rated as follows :
|small nongame birds||fair||good|
|upland game birds||fair||fair|
Partial cutting of overstory trees generally increases the proportion and production of spike fescue in forest communities .
Spike fescue decreases under heavy grazing pressure .
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