Managing Medusahead – Start Early, Stay Late

Medusahead grass is an "Ecosystem Transformer" species. Not only does it compete for resources with other plants, but it can change ecosystem function to favor its own survival at the expense of an entire ecosystem. It thrives in areas with hot dry summers and cool wet falls and springs. Its seeds travel well on animal hides, clothing and tires. It promotes fire as just another way to expand its territory, burning hot and fast, and then rebounding more quickly than the native vegetation. It isn't toxic, but it isn't very edible either. Though it's similar to other forages in protein, fat, fiber and lignin, it is also high in silica (think "sand") that slows passage through the rumen. That means that animals tend to avoid it. Uneaten stems create a thatch that suppresses other plants, until Medusahead is the primary plant. This can reduce grazing capacity on rangelands by 75 to 80%. It's a scary invasive, and that's why lots of researchers, ranchers and land managers are working together to find a way to slow its spread and beat it back if possible.   If you're worried about Med

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4 thoughts on “Managing Medusahead – Start Early, Stay Late

  1. A closer up picture would be good to include for those who do not know what it looks like.

  2. Hi Kathy,

    Good story. I did not know this book was out there.

    Burns BLM is in the 4th year of winter grazing medusahead and cheatgrass using protein supplement project. It is based on a longer term study at UNR’s Gund Ranch (Berry Parryman and others) winter grazing cheatgrass. In “good years” the dry cows gain weight. In normal years they maintain. We do body condition scoring before and after. Last July during the monitoring there were perennial bunchgrass shoots “everywhere.” They were probably crested and bluebunch wheatgrass. This area has burned several times and is approaching an invasive annual grass fire cycle plant community.

  3. In several places in western Nevada once medusahead is out barbed goatgrass (Aegilops triuncialis) is moving in. Stay vigilant!

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