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Community Field Guide

Scientific Name:
Juncus balticus Herbaceous Vegetation

Common Name:
Baltic rush wet Meadow

Community Description

Summary:
This Baltic rush wet meadow community is found widely throughout the western United States. This wet meadow vegetation occurs as small, dense patches on flat stream benches, along overflow channels, and near springs. Soils are usually sandy clay loam or fine sands and mottled or gleyed. Stands are characterized by a dense sward of Juncus balticus and often minor cover of Carex species, including Carex aquatilis, Carex praegracilis, Carex nebrascensis, or Carex utriculata. Other common species include Deschampsia caespitosa, Distichlis spicata, Glyceria striata, Hordeum jubatum, Muhlenbergia asperifolia, Phleum alpinum, and Sporobolus airoides. The introduced perennial sod grasses Poa pratensis or Agrostis stolonifera codominate some stands. Forb cover is generally low and includes wetland species like Caltha leptosepala and Dodecatheon pulchellum. Shrubs are not common. This association is often considered to be a grazing-induced community since it increases with disturbance.

Environment:
Throughout its range it occurs near seeps, in meadows, and on alluvial terraces. Surface topography is usually level or sometimes undulating or hummocky. Valley bottom characteristics are equally diverse, with widths ranging from very narrow to very broad and gradients from low to high (Padgett et al. 1989; Hansen et al. 1995; Manning and Padgett 1995; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997). This community type typically occurs on fine-textured surface soils. Textures range from silt to sandy-loam. The water table ranges from the surface to approximately 50 cm below the surface, occasionally falling below 1 m by the end of the summer. Estimated available water-holding capacity ranges from low to high. Soils have been classified as Mollisols, Inceptisols, and Histisols. Soil reaction ranges from neutral to mildly alkaline, pH 7.0 to 8.0 (Padgett et al. 1989; Hansen et al. 1995; Manning and Padgett 1995; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997).

Vegetation:
This association is characterized by a low (<50 cm), dense graminoid layer dominated by the rhizomatous perennial Juncus balticus. Minor cover of Carex species, including Carex aquatilis, Carex praegracilis, Carex nebrascensis or Carex utriculata, is often present. Other common graminoids include Deschampsia caespitosa, Distichlis spicata, Glyceria striata, Hordeum jubatum, Muhlenbergia asperifolia, Phleum alpinum, and Sporobolus airoides. Forb cover is generally low but may include Caltha leptosepala, Glaux maritima, Maianthemum stellatum, and Dodecatheon pulchellum. Shrubs are not common, but occasional Salix spp. may occur. Some stands may be codominated by the introduced perennial sod grasses Poa pratensis or Agrostis stolonifera. Other introduced species, such as Taraxacum officinale, Trifolium spp., Cirsium arvense, Lactuca serriola, Phleum pratense, and Thinopyrum intermedium, may occur in disturbed stands.<

>In Montana, Juncus balticus dominates the stands with canopy cover generally exceeding 50%. Cover by other graminoids is usually low, although Poa pratensis appears to be a common associate over the range of this type as do a number of other exotic pasture grasses. Hordeum jubatum has high constancy in Montana stands. A wide diversity of other graminoids and forbs, both native and exotic, occur in Juncus balticus stands throughout its range, generally at low cover (Padgett et al. 1989; Hansen et al. 1995; Manning and Padgett 1995; Crowe and Clausnitzer 1997; Walford et al. 1997).

Range:
The Juncus balticus community type has been documented from every state in the western United States, with the exception of Arizona (Bourgeron and Engelking 1994; Manning and Padgett 1995; Anderson et al. 1998).

Management:
Grazing value ratings for Juncus balticus are moderate for cattle and low (except in the spring when rated medium) for sheep, horses, mule deer, and elk. Juncus balticus has vigorous rhizomes with wide ecological amplitude. It is an excellent streambank stabilizer with dense fibrous roots that not only bind horizontally in the soil, but also grow to a greater depth than other rhizomatous graminoids. It has high erosion control potential. Because of its tenacious nature and relatively low palatability to livestock, this species is very important as a soil binder and streambank stabilizer. Planting Juncus balticus plugs in the flood plain of an incised but a-grading stream will enhance bank building by binding soils and trapping sediment (Manning and Padgett 1995).

Global Rank: G5 State Rank: S5

Community References

Identifier:
CEGL001838

Author:
99-11-16 / S. V. Cooper, MTNHP, 98-12-09 / B. Moseley

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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
http://mtnhp.org
mtnhp@mt.gov