Tom's Blog

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Prairie (Kalm's) brome in flower

Kalm's brome (Bromus kalmii) is one of the handsome early-flowering grasses. According to Cochrane and Iltis, it is Wisconsin's most common native brome. Although widespread on prairies, it is not long-lived, and tends to move around, disappearing in one place and reappearing in another.

We had several small patches of Kalm's brome on our original small prairie remnant, and Kathie collected seeds which she put into the seed mixes for our first prairie plantings. It did well on both Toby's and the Pocket Prairie, and from the latter we collected a lot more seed. Since then, we have included this in seed mixes for our savanna plantings as well, and we now find it throughout all of our more open savanna areas.

Kalm's brome has done extremely well in the Crane Prairie and last year we were able to collect a lot of seed for further plantings.

We have three other brome grasses at Pleasant Valley, two good, and one bad. The good ones, B. ciliatus and B. latiglumis, flower later.

The bad one is smooth brome (Bromus inermis), which is one of the grasses that every restoration project in Wisconsin has to deal with. It is a native of Eurasia that was introduced into North America in the 19th century and is now found in every state. One of the givens of plant ecology is that if you have a pasture or old field you have smooth brome. In many situations it may dominate a field to the exclusion of all other plants. Attempting to carry out a prairie planting without first killing smooth brome with herbicide is an invitation to disaster. Even if the field is heavily herbicided before planting, smooth brome will still be lurking and is capable of spreading and becoming re-established.

When it is in flower, smooth brome is very easy to identify, and especially to distinguish from Kalm's brome, which flowers at about the same time. The smooth brome flowers are narrower and rounder; the Kalm's brome flowers are fatter and flatter. The photo here shows this difference.


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