Botany Photo of the Day
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Bromus tectorum

Bromus tectorum
Hanford Reach National Monument
Hanford Reach National Monument

I'm back from Botany BC and the subsequent trip to southeast Washington state. I wish I could report that all went well, but a post-Botany BC bout of illness (that left more than half of the attendees sick) hit me as well. I didn't spend nearly as much time photographing and exploring as I had planned, needless to say.

That said, I did manage to find a number of uncommon plants along the way. Today's plant, however, isn't one of them. In fact, it's likely one of the most ubiquitous plants in temperate areas of the world: cheatgrass or drooping brome. Native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia, the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD) lists Bromus tectorum has having invaded “most of Europe, southern Russia, western and central Asia, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the United States.”. The Germplasm Resources Information Network entry adds a few more areas to the above list, including southern South America, India and Pakistan. In the second photograph, Bromus tectorum covers the right and foreground hillsides, and occurs in patches on the left hillside. In the third photograph, it forms most of the groundcover between the sagebrushes. Why is it such a successful invader? The GISD notes: “It usually thrives in disturbed areas preventing natives from returning to the area. Disturbance such as overgrazing, cultivation, and frequent fires encourage invasion. Once established the natives cannot compete and the whole ecosystem is altered.”.

I chose to feature Bromus tectorum today for a couple reasons. Most important of these is that it is a species named and described by Carl Linnaeus in Species Plantarum. As of today, it's been 300 years since the birth of Linnaeus, “the father of modern taxonomy”. The New York Times has a write-up: “The 300th Birthday of the Man Who Organized All of Nature”. Happy Birthday, Carl!

My other reason for featuring this weedy invasive is a bit of an ironic one. Yesterday was The International Day for Biological Diversity (did you know? hear about it on the news at all?) and Bromus tectorum growing in swathes is symbolic of the loss of biodiversity in many dryland areas.

A final note to end this ramble: these photographs were taken in the Saddle Mountain area of the Hanford Reach National Monument. Wikipedia has a summary of the Hanford Site (I didn't photograph any radioactive tumbleweed, by the way).

7 Comments

Im a Kenyan, 22 yrs old doing Diploma in Organic Agriculture
and i'm much intrested about what UBC is doing.I'm
quite thankful for the mails you send to me every day.I would like to paticipate in your work so that those people who appreciate UBC can have atleast a hint of what is in KENYA and in East Africa.
Please send me the necessary requirements and procedures which i can follow to become part of those whose photos appear day to day.
Also please i would like to know how people value Organic Agriculture in your locality because in Kenya it has not yet gotten a way out.

Thanks,
ANTONY.

Thanks for the information you provided on Bromus tectorum. I first noticed them on a drive through Arizona to the Grand Canyon, last summer. I wondered if they were native to Arizona. Now, I have noticed them all over California. My next thought was whether they were an invasive species and just how competative were they? You really managed to answer all my questions quite thoroughly. Thanks again.

I am finishing up a class titled "Restoring Landscapes" where we learned about this invasive, and others. Great pictures of a familiar sight!

It's quite funny to read about this plant being invasive. In my part of Sweden it's very rare and it's a delight to find it. My first find was on a small train station and the second time in an area of newly seeded grass (to become a lawn). Both times it was quite a bit of happiness amongst the people involved in the 'Sörmlands-flora' project. As you can see both times it was in a 'disturbed' environment. Funny what different reactions a species can bring. I love it and grow it together with other rare Bromus-species in my garden ;). No problems with it being invasive - more of it disappearing and me having to collect new seeds.
Also, as being Swedish, it's nice to see how everybody is remembering Linné (Linnaeus) - not just us.

Would love to be added to your daily mailing list.

Thanks.

braus, thanks for your interest. Please visit the main Botany Photo of the Day page and subscribe via the form in the upper right corner.

Don't worry, the goats love it. Never got over an inch tall.

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