Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands

Needlegrass, desert
(a.k.a. Stipa speciosa, Achnatherum speciosa)

Bunchy growth habit

Desert needlegrass is a native, perennial bunchgrass that grows from 1 to 2 feet tall, typically on coarse soils, including alluvial fans, dry, rocky hills, talus slopes, and in canyons. It can tolerate low precipitation and usually occurs in areas that receive 6 to 20 inches annually. The long awns of desert needlegrass seed enable self-planting. Cycles of wetting and drying cause the awn to twist and untwist, which drives the seed into the ground.

Desert needlegrass tolerates light grazing. It is best to graze desert needlegrass before seed develops because the seed has a prominent, sharp callus that can injure the eyes and mouths of grazing animals.

Brushland habitat
Spike with golden brown seeds and awns covered in fine hairs below the point where they bend
Large clump of desert needlegrass showing upright and spreading stems
Close-up of awn, showing where it bends. The lower part is covered in fine hairs.

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