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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Rhus trilobata / Schizachyrium scoparium Shrub Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Skunk bush sumac / little bluestem Shrub Prairie

Community Description

Rhus trilobata / Schizachyrium scoparium is a minor type described only for eastern Montana landscapes, occurring as small patches on gently to steeply sloping breaklands, mostly on slope shoulders but capable of extending to footslopes on warm exposures. Substrates include calcareous sandstones and shales and a lone instance on extrusive volcanics; all soils are shallow and coarse-textured. Surface coverage varied between high coverages of soil/gravel (>50 %) and swards of Selaginellla densa (compact clubmoss, on overgrazed land). Adjacent community types are often of the Artemisia tridentata series or Hesperostipa comata - Bouteloua gracilis (needle-and-thread -blue grama grass, on uplands).

Well-represented Rhus trilobata is diagnostic for the type; coverage ranges to 20%. Other shrubs include Artemisia frigida (fringed sage), Gutierrezia sarothrae (broom snakeweed) and Yucca glauca (yucca). Schizachyrium scoparium (blue grama) and usually Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass) are well represented, but due to site severity (and grazing), they do not exhibit high cover values. Hesperostipa comata (needle-and-thread) and Muhlenbergia cuspidata (plains muhly) have 100% constancy and Hesperostipa comata tends to have relatively higher coverage on accessible sites with grazing pressure; rhizomes of Pascopyrum smithii (western wheatgrass) ramify throughout the stands but with few tillers. Phlox hoodii (Hood’s phlox) and Liatris punctata (blazing- Star) were present in all plots.

Global Rank: G3 State Rank: S3

Community References


S.V. Cooper

Cooper et al. 2001, Culwell and Scow 1982

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This information is from the:
Montana Natural Heritage Program
Montana State Library--Natural Resource Information System
1515 East Sixth Ave., Helena, MT 59620-1800
406 444-5354