Grass Profiles

February 2022

needle-and-thread-Powell

needle-and-thread-BosleyNeedle and Thread  

Needle and Thread Hesperostipa comata is a cool season tufted bunchgrass native to western North America.  It grows on dry sandy, loamy to rocky soils at elevations of 3500-10,000 feet.

Plants are 1-3 feet tall and about 4 inches wide at the base.  The narrow leaves are gray green, about 1/6 inch wide.  Plants grow in the early spring and may green up again in the fall with enough moisture.  

Fibrous roots grow to 5 feet deep but the majority of the root mass is within the top 5-8 inches of the soil.   Roots can spread about 14 inches laterally.

This grass flowers in June to August.  The flower head (panicle) droops and is up to 11 inches long.  

Needle and thread reproduces by seed and by tillers. Seeds can last several years in the soil. They may germinate in spring or fall.  The seeds have a hairy, spear-shaped awn up to 8 inches long.  The awn is able to auger the seed into the soil as the air moisture changes throughout the day.  

The long awns can embed into the mouths and faces of livestock but needle and thread is good forage for livestock if you graze early before awn development or in the fall after seed drop.   

Resources

Fire Effects Information System (FEIS) 

SEINET     

Utah State University 

Photo Credits

Dave Powell, USDA Forest Service (retired), Bugwood.org

Bruce Bosley, Colorado State University, Bugwood.org

January 2022

1214062-WEB-Dave Powell

5394336-WEB-Bruce Bosley

Western Wheatgrass

(Pascoplyrum smithii)      

Photos courtesy of bugwood.org

Western wheatgrass is a long-lived perennial grass that likes sunny, dry, sandy sites.  Its elevation range is between 3000 and 9500 feet. 

This cool-season grass grows erect to 30 inches tall and has rhizomes that form sod.  The narrow (about ¼ inch wide) leaf blades are blue-gray to green and are stiff with a mid-rib.

This grass flowers in June-August.  The flowers are arranged in 4- to 6-inch-long heads.

The ligule is fibrous and reduced.  The auricles are purplish and clasp the stem.

The best time to plant is mid-March through mid-April.

Western wheatgrass is used as forage for livestock and wildlife.  Because of its root structure it is used in revegetation projects and as a soil stabilization species.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

NRCS  - Plant Profile (pdf)

SEINET - Plant Description