Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Vulpia bromoides
(squirreltail fescue)

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Datasheet

Vulpia bromoides (squirreltail fescue)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 20 November 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Vulpia bromoides
  • Preferred Common Name
  • squirreltail fescue
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Plantae
  •     Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •       Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •         Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • Weedy annual grasses likeV. bromoides can reduce biodiversity on native grasslands, impede their restoration, and alter ecosystem processes. In pastures, V. bromoides reduces productivity, h...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Vulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
TitleHabit
CaptionVulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Vulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
HabitVulpia bromoides plant with flower heads©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Vulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
TitleHabit
CaptionVulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Vulpia bromoides plant with flower heads
HabitVulpia bromoides plant with flower heads©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
TitleFlowers
Caption
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Flowers©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Seeds of Vulpia myuros (a) and V. bromoides (b)
TitleSeeds
CaptionSeeds of Vulpia myuros (a) and V. bromoides (b)
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Seeds of Vulpia myuros (a) and V. bromoides (b)
SeedsSeeds of Vulpia myuros (a) and V. bromoides (b)©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Close-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)
TitleClose-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)
CaptionClose-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)
Copyright©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand
Close-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)
Close-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)Close-up of seeds; Vulpia myuros (a) and V. Bromoides (b)©Trevor James/Hamilton, New Zealand

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Vulpia bromoides (L.) Gray

Preferred Common Name

  • squirreltail fescue

Other Scientific Names

  • Bromus dertonensis All
  • Festuca bromoides L.
  • Festuca dertonensis (All.) Asch. & Graebn.
  • Festuca dertonensis var. sciuroides (Roth) Briq.
  • Festuca geniculata var. monandra Döll
  • Festuca myuros ssp. sciuroides (Roth) Rouy
  • Festuca myuros var. bromoides (L.) Wimm. & Grab.
  • Festuca myuros var. sciuroides (Roth) Coss. & Durieu
  • Festuca sciuroides Roth
  • Vulpia dertonensis (All.) Gola
  • Vulpia myuros ssp. sciuroides (Roth) Rouy
  • Vulpia myuros var. bromoides (L.) Parl.
  • Vulpia sciuroides (Roth) C.C. Gmel.

International Common Names

  • English: vulpia hair grass

Local Common Names

  • : barren fescue; brome fescue; six-weeks fescue
  • : pasto de sedilla
  • : vulpie faux brome; vulpie queue-d'écureuil
  • Australia: hairgrass; silky grass; silver grass; squirreltail fescue
  • Brazil: cevadinha-braba; festuca-cevadinha
  • Sweden: ekorrsvingel

Summary of Invasiveness

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Weedy annual grasses likeV. bromoides can reduce biodiversity on native grasslands, impede their restoration, and alter ecosystem processes. In pastures, V. bromoides reduces productivity, has low palatability, and its seeds can damage hides and wool of grazing animals. In annual crops like wheat, the species reduces yields (ISSG, 2012).

V. myuros, a close relative of V. bromoides has apparently increased in Canadian wheat crops with the introduction of direct-seed cropping systems (Ball et al., 2008).

Wallace (1998) suggests that the long presence of the species in Australia, and its wide range throughout southern Australia probably means that it has reached the limits of its distribution there.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Plantae
  •         Phylum: Spermatophyta
  •             Subphylum: Angiospermae
  •                 Class: Monocotyledonae
  •                     Order: Cyperales
  •                         Family: Poaceae
  •                             Genus: Vulpia
  •                                 Species: Vulpia bromoides

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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Hubbard (1984) reported that “A rare hybrid with Festuca rubra has been found in Sussex and Suffolk”.

Vulpia consists of about 20 species, which are currently placed in five sections (Cotton and Stace 1977; Stace 1978, 1981, cited in Ainscough et al., 1986). Species of section Vulpia differ markedly from all species of Festuca in their annual habit, cleistogamous florets with usually only one or two stamens, and usually markedly unequal glumes. In addition, they have overlapping leaf-sheaths and only intravaginal innovations, and are fully self-fertile. Each species is characterized by a single chromosome number at the diploid (e.g. V. bromoides (L.) S. F. Gray), tetraploid (e.g. V. ciliata Dumort.) or hexaploid (e.g. V. myuros (L.) C. C. Gmelin) levels (2n = 14, 28, 42).’

Description

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Clayton et al. (2006) describes V. bromoides as the following:

 Habit

Annual; culms solitary, or caespitose. Culms erect, or decumbent; 5–60 cm long. Leaf sheaths without keel; smooth; glabrous on surface. Ligule an eciliate membrane; 0.2–0.5 mm long. Leaf-blades flat, or involute; 1–18 cm long; 0.5–3 mm wide; firm, or flaccid. Leaf-blade surface pubescent; hairy adaxially. Leaf-blade margins scaberulous. Leaf-blade apex attenuate.

Inflorescence

Inflorescence a panicle; exserted. Panicle open, or contracted; lanceolate, or oblong; equilateral, or nodding; 1–10 cm long. Primary panicle branches appressed, or ascending. Panicle branches angular; scaberulous. Spikelets solitary. Fertile spikelets pedicelled. Pedicels oblong; 1–4 mm long.

Fertile spikelets

Spikelets comprising 3–10 fertile florets; with diminished florets at the apex. Spikelets oblong, or cuneate; laterally compressed; 7–14 mm long; breaking up at maturity; disarticulating below each fertile floret. Rhachilla internodes eventually visible between lemmas; scaberulous.

Glumes

Glumes persistent; similar; shorter than spikelet; thinner than fertile lemma. Lower glume linear to lanceolate; 2–6 mm long; 0.5–0.75 length of upper glume; membranous; without keels; 1 -veined. Lower glume lateral veins absent. Lower glume apex acute. Upper glume lanceolate; 5–10 mm long; 1 length of adjacent fertile lemma; membranous; without keels; 3 -veined. Upper glume apex attenuate.

Florets

Fertile lemma lanceolate; 6–9 mm long; chartaceous; without keel; 5 -veined. Lemma surface scaberulous. Lemma apex acuminate; awned; 1 -awned. Principal lemma awn 5–12 mm long overall. Palea 1 length of lemma; 2 -veined. Palea keels scaberulous. Apical sterile florets resembling fertile though underdeveloped.

Flower

Anthers 1; 0.3–0.6 mm long; retained within floret. Ovary glabrous.

Fruit

Caryopsis with adherent pericarp; glabrous. Hilum linear; 1 length of caryopsis.

Plant Type

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Grass / sedge
Herbaceous
Seed propagated

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

AzerbaijanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Georgia (Republic of)PresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
IsraelPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
JapanPresentIntroducedMito and Uesugi, 2004
JordanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
LebanonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SyriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
TurkeyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012

Africa

AlgeriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
CameroonPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
EgyptPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
EritreaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
EthiopiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
KenyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
LesothoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
LibyaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
MauritiusPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
MoroccoPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
RéunionPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
Rodriguez IslandPresentIntroducedPIER, 2012
South AfricaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
SudanPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
TunisiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
UgandaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012

North America

CanadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-British ColumbiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-Northwest TerritoriesPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
USAPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-AlabamaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-ArizonaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-ArkansasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-DelawarePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-FloridaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-GeorgiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-HawaiiPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
-IdahoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-IllinoisPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-KentuckyPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-LouisianaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-MainePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-MassachusettsPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-MissouriPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-MontanaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-NevadaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-New MexicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-New YorkPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-North CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-OhioPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-OklahomaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-OregonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-South CarolinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-TennesseePresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-TexasPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-UtahPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-VirginiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012
-WashingtonPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012

Central America and Caribbean

Costa RicaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
El SalvadorPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
GuatemalaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
HondurasPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
Puerto RicoPresentIntroducedUSDA-NRCS, 2012

South America

ArgentinaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
BrazilPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ChilePresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
ColombiaPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
PeruPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012
UruguayPresentIntroducedUSDA-ARS, 2012

Europe

AlbaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
AustriaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
BelgiumPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
BulgariaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
CroatiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Czech RepublicPresentIntroduced Invasive Pysek et al., 2002
Czechoslovakia (former)PresentIntroduced Invasive Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012
DenmarkPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
FinlandPresentNativeRandall, 2012
FrancePresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012
-CorsicaPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012
GermanyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
GreecePresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
HungaryPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
IcelandPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012
IrelandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
ItalyPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
NetherlandsPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
PolandLocalisedNative Not invasive USDA-ARS, 2012
PortugalPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-AzoresPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-MadeiraPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
RomaniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
Russian FederationPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SerbiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SlovakiaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SloveniaPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SpainPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
-Balearic IslandsPresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012
SwedenPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
SwitzerlandPresentNativeUSDA-ARS, 2012
UKWidespreadNativeHubbard, 1984
Yugoslavia (former)PresentNativeRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 2012

Oceania

AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive USDA-ARS, 2012
-Australian Northern TerritoryLocalisedIntroducedSimon and Alfonso, 2012
-New South WalesWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1998
-QueenslandWidespreadIntroducedWallace, 1998
-South AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1998
-TasmaniaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1998
-VictoriaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1998
-Western AustraliaWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Wallace, 1998
New ZealandWidespreadIntroduced Invasive Edgar and Connor, 2010

History of Introduction and Spread

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According to Wallace (1998), V. bromoides was listed as an ornamental grass in a seed catalogue published in 1886. Therefore, in some cases at least, the species might have been a garden escape. However, it was almost certainly accidentally introduced to many places as a contaminant in grass seed, or in hay or straw carried round the world to support livestock in the early days of colonisation in the Americas, Australasia and elsewhere. Seeds may also have been transported, both locally and internationally, by adhering to the wool or hairs of introduced livestock or attaching to people’s clothing. Another possible method of introduction to new areas was the incorporation of seed inadvertently into ship ballast (Kloot, 1986).

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
New Zealand 1864 Yes THOMSON (1922)
South Australia 1848 Yes Jessop et al. (2006)
Tasmania 1837 Yes Wallace (1998)
Victoria 1852 Yes Wallace (1998)
Western Australia Mediterranean and Black Sea 1891 Yes Wallace (1998)

Risk of Introduction

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Although V. bromoides has been present in some non-native countries for a number of years, its spread within some of these countries is still a potential risk.

Habitat

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Vulpia species seem to prefer dry, depleted soils, low in nutrients, and this perhaps explains their occurrence where other, more perennial pasture grasses do not persist. In Australia they have become a major invasive problem of pastures, where they displace more productive grasses and clovers, and crops, such as wheat.

Weber (2003) described its habitat as “Grass and heathland, riparian habitats, freshwater wetlands, coastal beaches. This shallow-rooted grass grows well in soils of low fertility. Where invasive, it successfully competes with native grasses and forbs for water, space and nutrients. It forms dense swards crowding out native plants and reducing species richness”.

In the UK, Hubbard’s (1984) description is “A slender grass of dry places, frequent throughout the British Isles; on heaths, hill grassland, roadsides, often abundant and forming pure masses on open sandy or stony ground and on waste land, occasional in open woodland and as a weed of cultivated land; from sea-level to nearly 610 m”.

In New Zealand, Edgar and Connor (2010) describe the habitat as ‘Waste land and disturbed ground, stony river beds and dry depleted grassland; sea level to subalpine.’

Jessop et al. (2006) in South Australia, described it as an occasional weed of disturbed places, found in open forest and woodland, on sandy loam to clay loam soils.

Wallace (1998) drew the conclusion from published work that V. myuros (and probably V. bromoides) tolerates soils with low potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen status. This tolerance is likely to be one of the main reasons for these plants becoming the dominant species as soil fertility declines.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
 
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Cultivated / agricultural land Principal habitat Natural
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Principal habitat Natural
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Principal habitat Natural
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Rail / roadsides Principal habitat Natural
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Harmful (pest or invasive)
Urban / peri-urban areas Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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In Canada, V. bromoides is one of several species named as threatening the habitat and therefore the survival of Rosy Owl-clover (Orthocarpus bracteosus) (Fairburns, 2002).

Host Plants and Other Plants Affected

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Plant nameFamilyContext
pasturesMain
wheat branMain

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

2n = 14 (Hubbard 1984, Loo 2005).

2n = 14, 28, 42 (Ainscough et al., 1986).

Reproductive Biology

Reproduction is only by seed and the species is a C3 annual. In Australia, and elsewhere, plants flower in spring or early summer (October to January in Australia) (Jessop et al. 2005). Hubbard (1984) reports it flowering between May and July in the UK.

Vulpia is a high selfing genus but both self-fertilisation and cross-fertilisation seem to occur (Loo, 2005). According to Cotton and Stace (1977), fertile florets are cleistogamous, usually have only one or two stamens and are fully self-fertile.

Flood and Halloran (1982) found that V. bromoides possessed little or no vernalisation response and was comparatively insensitive to photoperiod.

Wallace (1998) reported that it takes about 18 days from flowering to seed set, although this can vary from 7-30 days depending on growing conditions. Seeds are released soon after maturity and are dislodged by wind or animal movement. The spikelet disarticulates at the base of each floret and leaves the pedicel and two glumes on the parent plant (Cotton and Stace, 1977).

Lonsdale et al. (1999) compared seed survival and plant fecundity in French (where the genus Vulpia is relatively uncommon) and Australian (where species have a major impact on pasture productivity) populations of V. bromoides and V. myuros. They found that although seeds disappeared quickly when buried, some always survived for at least 18 months, and persistence in the soil was always greater in France than in Australia. However, Australian populations, in pure stands, were much more fecund than French ones, although Australian populations exposed to grazing and competition from other pasture species behaved similarly to those in France.

 Physiology and Phenology

Seeds germinate readily over the range 11 – 25oC (Loo, 2005). Dillon and Forcella (1984) found that dormant seeds of V. bromoides require an after-ripening period of 2-3 months before they could germinate, and seeds usually germinate in the first year after shedding. McGowan (1970), however, did find that under some conditions seeds could remain dormant for two years, possibly as a result of warm temperatures after rain. Exposure to light enhances germination and also the temperature range over which germination occurs (Dillon and Forcella, 1984).

Germination in the autumn usually follows substantial rainfall. Dillon and Forcella (1984) observed that at least 50 mm of monthly rainfall was needed to stimulate germination. In Australia, most germination normally takes place in autumn, between March and early June.

Associations

On the tablelands of northern New South Wales, at altitudes mostly over 1000 m with a subhumid climate and maximum rainfall in summer, Mclntyre and Whalley (1990) found that V. bromoides was very often closely associated with the related V. myuros and that both species share a broad ecological tolerance.

According to Wallace (1998) the plants most frequently associated with species of Vulpia in Australia are the annual grasses, annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum), barley grasses (Critesion spp.), and Bromus spp., and introduced, naturalised broadleaved annuals like subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum), capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) and storksbill (Erodium spp.). Species of Vulpia are usually sub-dominant in the sward but become dominant after removal of the dominant species, for example, after the use of herbicides.

Environmental Requirements

Wallace (1998) suggested that V. myuros (and probably V. bromoides) tolerate soils with low potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen status.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter Preferred Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
15-62 25-44

Rainfall

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ParameterLower limitUpper limitDescription
Mean annual rainfall3001200mm; lower/upper limits

Rainfall Regime

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Uniform
Winter

Soil Tolerances

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Soil drainage

  • free

Soil reaction

  • acid
  • neutral
  • very acid

Soil texture

  • light
  • medium

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Lonsdale et al., (1999) speculated that the difference in plant fecundity in its native and introduced environments may be due to the effect of natural enemies in its native environment (the enemy release hypothesis is often used to explain the greater success of an invasive species in alien environments than in its native one). Vulpia spp. are often susceptible to attack by generalist herbivorous insects in their local environment.

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Seeds are light and readily carried by even light breezes.

Vector Transmission (Biotic)

Ants may transport seed for some distance, mainly to store as food.

Accidental Introduction

Seeds are easily caught in clothing, particularly knitted items, such as socks. Seeds also readily attach to animal wool, fur or hair and can thus be carried for long distances.

Intentional Introduction

Wallace (1998) mentioned the possible Australian introduction of the species as a garden ornamental in the late 1800s.

Pathway Causes

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CauseNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Crop productionPossibly spread in impure pasture grass seed Yes Yes
Disturbance Yes
Escape from confinement or garden escape Yes Yes
ForagePossibly spread in hay, straw Yes Yes

Pathway Vectors

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VectorNotesLong DistanceLocalReferences
Plants or parts of plantsAs seed Yes

Plant Trade

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Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transportPest stagesBorne internallyBorne externallyVisibility of pest or symptoms
True seeds (inc. grain)

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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V. bromoides, along with V. myuros and other annual grasses, has become a major problem in pastures and crops in Australia. Populations of seedlings in Australian pastures can exceed 40,000 per square metre.

According to Loo (2005), species of Vulpia have only become of concern to the farming community in Australia since the late 1980s. He suggests that this may be due to climatic changes or, more likely to changes in agronomic practices, like the introduction of direct drilling or minimum tillage. Species of Vulpia produce low quality forage for livestock, and, at high densities, interfere with the yields of crops like wheat. In the Pacific Northwest of the USA, it is worth noting that the closely related V. myuros is becoming increasingly common in wheat-based cropping systems as a result of minimum-tillage and direct-seeding becoming a common practice (Ball and Hulting, 2009).

Residues of Vulpia can have allelopathic effects on pasture species (subterranean clover – Trifolium subterraneum, lucerne - Medicago sativa, phalaris - Phalaris aquatica) and crops like wheat (Triticum aestivum) (Pratley and Ingrey, 1990).

The small, sharp, awned seeds, along with those of Hordeum spp. and Bromus spp. contaminate and devalue sheep’s wool in both Australia and New Zealand. The seeds of these species also lodge in the eyes, ears, mouths and skin of livestock, causing them discomfort, which can in turn lead to reduced livestock weight gains.

The species also acts as host for a range of cereal root diseases including take-all, crown rot, rhizoctonia, bare patch and common root rot. Like other annual grasses, V. bromoides can act as host for the crop pest webworm Hednota spp. It is also a host for the nematode that causes annual ryegrass toxicity (Riley and McKay, 1991).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Orthocarpus bracteosusNational list(s) National list(s)British ColumbiaFairbarns, 2002

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Fast growing
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Negatively impacts agriculture
Impact mechanisms
  • Competition - shading
  • Herbivory/grazing/browsing
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
  • Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant

Uses

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Economic Value

V. bromoides is grazed by livestock, although other pasture species are usually preferred.

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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V. bromoides is very similar in appearance to V. myuros and both species are often found growing together. In V. myuros, the panicle is usually very narrow, is often not fully exserted from the leaf sheath, and the lower glume is less than a quarter to almost half the length of the upper glume. Whereas in V. bromoides, the lower glume is half to three quarters of the length of the upper glume and the panicle is lanceolate to narrow-oblong, erect or sometimes nodding (Edgar and Connor, 2010).        

Prevention and Control

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Prevention

Modern phytosanitary precautions should reduce or eliminate international movement. However, limiting its movement within a country could be more difficult because of the ease with which the seed can be transported.

Since V. bromoides populations in some parts of Australia have developed resistance to bipyridyl herbicides like paraquat and diquat,  care should be taken to prevent seed from these populations from spreading to unaffected areas on, for example, agricultural machinery or livestock . In addition, where herbicides are regularly applied to populations of V. bromoides herbicides from different herbicide groups should be used alternately to prevent or delay the build-up of resistant biotypes.

Physical/Mechanical Control

Seed germination is prevented by ploughing or other cultivation methods that bury the seed deeply in the soil. Individual plants are easily pulled or dug up. Conventional tillage such as ploughing is therefore an effective method of control, but only if it is carried out in March or later in Australia.

Hard grazing can be used to limit seed production in species of Vulpia, especially soon after germination in autumn and in spring, when the seedheads are produced (Jones and Whalley, 1992).

Chemical Control

In Australia, control of species of Vulpia is possible with herbicides in legume-based pastures or in grain-legume crops like lupins, but in non-legume crops integrated management is essential to achieve acceptable control.

In crops in Australia, Wallace (1998) mentions use of simazine in grain-legume crops, and trifluralin in lupins (Lupinus spp.), field peas (Pisum sativum), canola (Brassica rapa), safflower (Carthamus tinctorius), linseed (Linum usitatissimum), chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), and faba beans (Vicia faba). Diuron, trisulfuron and cyanazine and metribuzin have also been used in various crops (Wallace, 1998).

Leys and Plater (1993) found that tank mixes of simazine plus very low rates of paraquat gave over 90% control of V. bromoides and other grass species in subterranean clover pastures in southern New South Wales. The paraquat destroys any seedlings already emerged and the simazine prevents germination of further seed. Wallace (1998) mentioned the use of propyzamide, carbetamide, 2,2-DPA for control of species of Vulpia in Australian pastures. Both propyzamide and carbetamide also kill other grasses and have residual activity, so could only be used where clover dominance is desired.

In New Zealand, where the species is a problem in small seed crops, ethofumesate, terbuthylazine and atrazine have proved useful (Foundation for Arable Research, 2008).

The downside of regular repeated application of herbicides is the development of resistance in weed species. Heap (2012) reported that V. bromoides in Victoria first evolved resistance to Group D/22 (bipyridilium - Herbicide Class L in Australia) herbicides in 1990. Research has shown that these particular biotypes are resistant to diquat and paraquat and may be cross-resistant to other Group D/22 herbicides.

IPM

ISSG (2012) suggests that integrated management combining pasture rest, herbicide treatment and fertilizer application has been shown to reduce seed production and improve control. In addition, it would be beneficial to use pasture species or cultivars best suited to the local environment, accompanied by pasture management to encourage the oversown or drilled pasture species.

The important consideration is the maintenance of vigorous, health pasture species, using appropriate fertilisers and appropriate grazing management.

Dowling et al. (2004) found that pastures containing annual ryegrass (Lolium rigidum) were effective in reducing plant, panicle and seed densities of V. bromoides compared with those where only subterranean clover (Trifolium subterrraneum) was present.

Simazine can be applied at low rates after annual ryegrass emergence to help control species of Vulpia. (Wallace, 1998). Spray-topping is a technique often used in Australian pastures, where relatively low rates of non-selective herbicides are applied to grass seed heads during flowering, in an attempt to reduce or prevent setting of viable seed. Paraquat or glyphosate are the herbicides commonly used and they can reduce seed set by about 30% (Wallace, 1998). Seed production can be further reduced by grazing after the spray-top treatment. Such spray-topping increases the grazing value of species of Vulpia and may result in more intense grazing of the plants. Dowling et al., (1992) found that pastures spray-topped with paraquat in spring (September to November), and in winter (June) the next year with simazine resulted in fewer Vulpia plants than either simazine alone or spray-topping alone.

Strategic heavy grazing in spring has been shown to reduce seed set, especially when combined with autumn grazing to reduce seedling establishment (Jones and Whalley, 1993).

In a one year experiment on dryland Canterbury pastures (subject to summer drought) in New Zealand, Tozer et al. (2010) found that survival and seedhead production of both Vulpia myuros and Bromus hordeaceus were lower in cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) than in ryegrass (Lolium perenne)-based pastures.

References

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Clayton WD; Vorontsova MS; Harman KT; Williamson H, 2012. GrassBase - The Online World Grass Flora. London, UK: The Board of Trustees, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. http://www.kew.org/data/grasses-db.html

Cotton R; Stace CA, 1977. Morphological and anatomical variation of Vulpia (Gramineae). Botaniska Notiser, 130(2):173-187.

Department of Agriculture and Food, 2012. Silver grass. Australia: Government of Western Australia. http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/

Dillon SP; Forcella F, 1984. Germination, emergence, vegetative growth and flowering of two silvergrasses, Vulpia bromoides (L.) S.F. Gray and V. myuros (L.) C.C. Gmel. Australian Journal of Botany, 32(2):165-175.

Dowling PM; Leys AR; Plater B, 1992. Integration of herbicide and pasture management for long-term control of vulpia. In: Proceedings of the 6th Australian Agronomy Conference [ed. by Vickery, P. J. \Hutchinson, K. J.]. Armidale, New South Wales, Australia: Australian Society of Agronomy, 599.

Dowling PM; Leys AR; Verbeek B; Millar GD; Lemerle D; Nicol HI, 2004. Effect of annual pasture composition, plant density, soil fertility and drought on vulpia (Vulpia bromoides (L.) S.F. Gray). Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 55(10):1097-1107.

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Fairbarns M, 2002. Stewardship Account for Rosy Owl-clover Orthocarpus bracteosus. Report prepared for Prepared for the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team. Victoria, Canada: British Columbia Conservation Data Centre.

Flood RG; Halloran GM, 1982. Flowering behaviour of four annual grass species in relation to temperature and photoperiod. Annals of Botany, 49(4):469-475.

Foundation for Arable Research, 2008. Hairgrass (Vulpia spp). What do we know? A review of the literature. Weeds, Pests and Diseases, 78. New Zealand: Foundation for Arable Research. http://www.far.org.nz/mm_uploads/X78_Vulpia.pdf

Heap I, 2012. International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds. http://www.weedscience.org/In.asp

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gatewayhttps://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.m93f6Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS)http://griis.org/Data source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
GrassBase - The Online World Grass Florahttp://www.kew.org/data/grasses-db/www/imp10752.htm
ITIS Interagency Taxonomic Information System, Smithsonian Institution/NMNH MRC, Washington DC, USAhttp://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=42261
USDA- ARS, 2012. Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Online Databasehttp://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=VUBR

Organizations

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Australia: New South Wales Dept. of Primary Industry, 161 Kite Street, ORANGE NSW 2800, http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/

Australia: Primary Industries and Regions South Australia - PIRSA, Level 14, 25 Grenfell Street, GPO Box 1671 Adelaide SA 5001, http://www.pir.sa.gov.au/

Contributors

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31/10/12 Original text by:

Ian Popay, consultant, New Zealand, with the support of Landcare Research.

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