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General: Needle-and-Thread is a native, tufted, cool-season grass common to the prairies, plains and foothills of the western United States. It is a perennial bunchgrass, 1- 4 feet tall with erect, smooth culms and long, flat leaves 8- 12 inches long. The inflorescence is a contracted panicle that remains partially in the sheath. The source of its name is the 4- 5 inch long twisted awn which arises from the lemma. It detaches from the inflorescence with the seed and gives the appearance of a short needle and long thread. The ligule, an identifying characteristic, is membranous and split.

Distribution: This grass is found from British Columbia and the Yukon to Ontario, south to California, New Mexico and Texas.

Habitat: Needle-and-Thread is an important plant in a wide variety of plant communities throughout western Canada and the United States. It can be found in the Palouse region of Idaho, Oregon and Washington and mountain foothills of British Columbia, Alberta, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington associated with bluebunch wheatgrass, Idaho fescue, and bluegrass plant communities. In the northern Great Plains it is found in association with western wheatgrass, blue grama and bluebunch wheatgrass plant communities. In the central Great Plains it can be found in bluestem, gramagrass and prairie sandreed plant communities. In the arid regions of Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming it is found in association with sagebrush, saltbush, horsebrush, bitterbrush, winterfat, Sandberg bluegrass, Indian ricegrass, and thickspike wheatgrass plant communities. This species is a fairly early vegetative component on sand dunes in the intermountain region. On sand dune soils in southern Idaho, it follows the establishment of yellow wildrye and scurf pea and establishes before Indian ricegrass and thickspike wheatgrass.

Intermountain Flora - drawn by Jeanne R. Janish.

University of Washington Press.


Public Domain

USDA NRCS Idaho State Office

Source: USDA NRCS PLANTS Database

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