Eastern Forest Threat Center - Cheatgrass

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Cheatgrass plants

Cheatgrass plants

Chris Evans, River to River CWMA, Bugwood.org

Cheatgrass
Bromus tectorum

Cheatgrass is native to Europe, the northern rim of Africa, and southwestern Asia. It was accidentally introduced in to the U.S. in the 1800s through contaminated shipments.

Keywords: Poaceae, grass; Common names: downy or drooping brome, thatch bromegrass, broncograss, military grass, downy chess, early chess, soft chess, wild oats

Distribution Map Distribution Source Image

Threat Description

Cheatgrass is an annual winter grass with erect, slender stems. It forms small tufts, 8-24 in. tall, from a fine fibrous root system. Its branches are thin, flexuous, and pubescent. Leaf blades are flat and pubescent. The inflorescence is a dense, drooping panicle 1 ½ to 8 in. long and is pale green to purplish in color. Plants bear many finely hairy, drooping, yellowish-green, bristly spikelets with 4 to 7 flowers in a loose, much-branched, terminal cluster. At maturity the spikelets break apart. Cheatgrass reproduces by seed that germinates in the fall; litter promotes germination and establishment of seedlings. Seedlings over winter, and then flower in the spring. Cheatgrass grows on rangelands, pastures, prairies, fields, waste areas, eroded sites, and roadsides. It exists in many climatic areas, but tends to be most invasive in areas receiving 12-22 in. of annual precipitation. It will grow in almost any type of soil, but is most commonly found on coarse textured soils on B and C horizons of eroded areas and areas low in nitrogen. Many of the ecosystems that cheatgrass has invaded are seriously altered, and no longer support the vegetation of the potential natural community.