Selected Plants of Navajo Rangelands

Take care of our Navajo Rangelands

Grama, sideoats

Herbarium specimen showing root clumps, stalks, and distinctive seedheads

Sideoats grama is a medium-size perennial bunchgrass, 15 to 30 inches tall or occasionally taller. This is the largest and most coarse of the grama grasses. It has a blue-green color, sometimes with a purplish cast (especially in the spring), and cures to a reddish brown or straw color. Leaves are coarser than other species of gramas, straight, comparatively stiff, and mostly basal. Ten to thirty small, non-comb-like spikes are borne mostly along one side of each central seed stalk. These spikes drop when mature, leaving a long zigzag stalk. It produces high quality, nutritious forage that is relished by all classes of livestock throughout the summer and fall, and it remains moderately palatable into winter. This makes it one of the most important range grass species.

Sideoats is moderately drought tolerant, but less so than blue grama. It is moderately tolerant of semi-shaded conditions and can be found in open woodlands. It is fairly tolerant of fire (when in a dormant state) and of spring flooding. It probably has the widest range of adaptation of any of the warm-season perennial grass plants.

Characteristic arrangement of small, reddish-green spikes along one side of the stalk
Reddish-brown spikes flowering
Pattern of spikes along stalks
A swath of sideoats grama with spikes along stems

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