Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands


Leaf blade and sheath of johnsongrass

Johnsongrass is a tall perennial with long rhizomes. It grows in moist places and can form large colonies. The flowering segments are called rames. In the rames, a pedicelled spikelet can give rise to more pedicelled spikelets.

Johnsongrass was introduced to the United States as a forage crop, and generally provides good feed. At certain stages of development, however, it can be toxic to livestock. Toxins may also be present when the grass grows in adverse conditions such as drought, frost, or extreme heat. Toxins may also be present when the grass is wet. Toxins tend to affect cattle more than horses. Stalks grow to a height of eight feet. The leaves have a distinctive white midrib. The flowers occur in a purplish cluster. The plants spread through rhizomes and contain allelopathic chemicals, toxins that may affect the health and growth of other plants.

tall purple seedhead with green grass below and sparsely treed hills in the background
Close-up of green and brown seeds with fuzzy tips
Close up of reddish group of seedheads beside a ruler, showing a length of 13 mm
white/tan bare rhizome and stalk of grass against a rocky background
Seeds of johnsongrass
Herbarium specimen of a grass stalk with many large floppy seed heads, pressed.

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