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Our state grass: Bluebunch Wheatgrass

By on July 23, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

By Jaana Hatton

Drumroll, please — here comes our very own state grass: bluebunch wheatgrass (pseudoroegneria spicata). Now say that three times as fast as you can.

The Latin name implies that the plant is a fake (pseudo) or mimics another grass (roegneria) and with a beard, even (spicata).

Well, our state grass looks like wheat but it actually is not.

Bluebunch wheatgrass can grow anywhere between 1.5 to 4 feet tall. The seeds grow in an alternating pattern, giving the plant the resemblance of wheat. The seeds can be bearded (spiky) or not. The flat leaves remain green. It spreads by seed.

This happy-go-lucky plant makes itself comfortable almost anywhere except in acidic soil. Bluebunch wheatgrass thrives in coarse ground without too much moisture — it just doesn’t like to get its feet wet.

Bluebunch wheatgrass is beneficial in all of its carefree manner.

It’s nutritious, for one thing. Both livestock and wildlife will get protein and carbohydrates with every bite. Eat your greens, most definitely. Wherever you see bunches (I had to say that) of bluebunch wheatgrass, bring the cows. But, only for a day or two, then let the grass recover. And the cows, possibly.

Our state grass: Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Wildlife, such as elk and deer, love bluebunch wheatgrass. It used to be much more prevalent in the days gone by, but as farming and ranching began, bluebunch wheatgrass along with wild animals lost a considerable portion of the natural habitat.

Besides offering nutrition, this grass is also an excellent landscaping plant. It establishes quickly and happily shares the space with other native grasses. Bluebunch wheatgrass is widely used for restoration projects, as it doesn’t mind even disturbed soils. A true trooper, it is.

You can see bluebunch wheatgrass all along the Apple Capital Loop Trail, for example. It grows in abundance right along the pathway.

To sum it up, bluebunch wheatgrass is easily adaptable, drought and cold tolerant, nutritious and pleasant to look at. What’s not to like? Oh, yes, the bristles…

Jaana Hatton is a freelance writer and a  Wenatchee area resident since 2013. She grew up free as a bird in the woodlands of Finland and continues to be enchanted by all things living and wild.

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