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Specific work instructions (SWI 142.1.2-5): forage, turf, groundcover and native species

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Date

This version of the Forage, Turf, Groundcover, and Native Species Pedigreed Seed Crop Inspection Procedures was issued April 1, 2020.

Contract

The contact person for this Seed Program Specific Work Instruction (SWI) is the National Manager, Seed Section. Comments regarding the content of this document should be addressed to the National Manager at cfia.seed-semence.acia@canada.ca.

Review

This Seed Program SWI is subject to periodic review. Amendments will be issued to ensure the SWI continues to meet current needs.

Endorsement

This Seed Program SWI is hereby approved.

____________________
Director, Plant Production Division

____________________
Date

Distribution

The most up to date version of this document will be maintained on the CFIA website. In addition, the signed original will be maintained by the National Manager, Seed Section. A copy of the latest version is available upon request to cfia.seed-semence.acia@canada.ca.

0.0 Introduction

The purpose of pedigreed seed crop inspection is to provide an unbiased inspection and complete a Report of Seed Crop Inspection for the Canadian Seed Growers' Association (CSGA) on the isolation, condition, and purity of the crop. It is the seed crop inspector's responsibility to describe the crop as observed at the time of inspection.

1.0 Scope

This Seed Program Specific Work Instruction (SWI) outlines the procedures that a seed crop inspector will follow when inspecting forage, turf, groundcover, native reclamation and related species for pedigreed seed crop status. The crop inspection program ensures that crops grown for pedigreed status meet the requirements for varietal purity and crop standards as specified by the CSGA's Canadian Regulations and Procedures for Pedigreed Seed Crop Production (Circular 6).

2.0 References

The publications referred to in the development of this SWI are those identified in SPRA 101– Definitions, Acronyms, and References for the Seed Program. In addition, the following were used:

  1. Pedigreed Forage Seed Production, Canadian Seed Growers' Association, 1996.
  2. Certification Handbook, Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies, 1993.
  3. Forages, Third Edition, M.E. Heath et al., Iowa State University Press, 1978.
  4. Licensed Varieties of Cultivated Grasses and Legumes, Agriculture Canada, 1974.
  5. Alberta Forage Manual, Alberta Agriculture, 1981.
  6. OECD Guidelines for Control Plot Tests and Field Inspection of Seed Crops, OECD, 2001.
  7. Wild Purple Prairie Clover, Oak Prairie Farm, 2003.
  8. Dalea candida, White Prairie Clover, Easyliving Wildflowers, 2003.
  9. White Prairie Clover, John Hilty, 2002.
  10. Purple Prairie Clover, M. Haddock, 1997.
  11. USDA-NRCS, The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov/plants). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA, 2003.
  12. Agrostis stolonifera, USDA Forest Service (Fire Effects Information System), 2003.
  13. Creeping Bentgrass Description, University of Illinois Turfgrass Program, 2000.
  14. Creeping Bentgrass, University of Kentucky, 2003.
  15. Canary Grass, IENICA, 2003.
  16. Canarygrass, Putnam et al., 1990.
  17. Poaceae of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification, and Information Retrieval. Version: 10th December 2001, S.G. Aiken et al., 1995 onwards.
  18. Hard Fescue, S. Smoliak et al., 2003.
  19. Guide to Grasses, Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc., 2001.
  20. Native plants - Tufted Hairgrass, Washington State University, 2003.
  21. Tufted Hairgrass, USU Extension, 2002.
  22. Western Wetland Flora - Field Office Guide to Plant Species, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Centre, 2003.
  23. Deschampsia cespitosa, André Bonneau, 2003.
  24. Slender Wheat Grass, Mississippi National River and Recreational Area, 2002.
  25. Blue Grama, M. Haddock, 2001.
  26. Little Bluestem, J. Isaacs, 1992.
  27. Little Bluestem, Magness et al., 1971.
  28. Little Bluestem, Sharp Brothers Seed Company, 1999.
  29. Botanical and Ecological Characteristics (Bromus ciliatus), USDA Forest Service (Fire Effects Information System), 2003.
  30. Bromus Ciliatus L. Fringed Brome-Grass, West Virginia University Extension Service (Agriculture and Forestry), 2003.
  31. Green Needle Grass (Stipa viridula), Alberta Prairie Conservation Forum, 2003.
  32. Stipa viridula, André Bonneau. 2003.
  33. Needle-and-thread Grass (Stipa comata), S. Smoliak et al., 2003.
  34. Needle-and-Thread, USU Extension, 2002.
  35. Beardless Wildrye, S. Smoliak et al., 2003.
  36. Siberian Wheatgrass, Magness et al., 1971.
  37. Siberian Wheatgrass, S. Smoliak et al., 2003.
  38. Alpine Bluegrass, Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc., 2003.
  39. Alpine Bluegrass, Prairie Seeds, 2003.
  40. Dahurian Wildrye, in Re-Grassing Farmland: A Practical Guide to Selecting The Right Forage Species, AgriCarta, 1999.
  41. A general system for coding taxonomic descriptions. Taxon, 29: 41-46, Dallwitz, M.J., 1980.
  42. User's Guide to DELTA: a general system for processing taxonomic descriptions. 4th ed. Dallwitz, M.J. et al., 1993 onwards.
  43. User's Guide to Intkey: a Program for Interactive Identification and Information Retrieval. 1st edition. Dallwitz, M.J. et al., 1995 onwards.
  44. Interactive keys. In Information Technology, Plant Pathology and Biodiversity, pp.201-212. (Eds P. Bridge, P. Jeffries, D.R. Morse, and P.R. Scott.) (CAB International: Wallingford.), Dallwitz, M.J. et al., 2000.
  45. Flora of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Descriptions, Illustrations, Identification and Information Retrieval, Aiken, S.G., et al., 1999 onwards.
  46. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies, Looman, J., 1983.
  47. Wild Plants of the Canadian Prairies, Best, Keith, F., and Budd, Archibald, C., 1964.
  48. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands, Tannas, Kathy.
  49. OECD List of Varieties Eligible for Certification, OECD, 2001.
  50. Canadian Milkvetch, USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2002. Plant Fact Sheet. Bismarck Plant Materials Centre Bismarck, North Dakota.
  51. Chickling Vetch, V.O. Biederbeck and A.J. Leyshon. 1992. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Swift Current, Saskatchewan
  52. Prairie Cordgrass, USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2002. Plant Fact Sheet. Bismarck Plant Materials Centre Bismarck, North Dakota.
  53. Indian ricegrass, USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2002. Plant Fact Sheet. Rose Lake Plant Materials Centre, East Lansing, Michigan.
  54. Spike Trisetum, Utah State University, Cooperative Extension, 2010, Plant Fact Sheet, Logan, Utah.
  55. Phacelia tanacetifolia: A brief overview of a potentially useful insectary plant and cover crop. Small Farm Success Project. Fact Sheet. Leslie Gilbert, USDA. 2003.

3.0 Definitions

For the purposes of this SWI, the definitions given in SPRA 101 and the following apply,

Apomixis

The development of seed without the fusion of pollen and ovule.

Cross-pollination

Fertilization by pollen of another plant.

Forage crop

A crop of cultivated plants or plant parts, other than separated grain, produced to be grazed, or harvested to be used as feed for livestock. Grasses to be used in land reclamation also fall under the forage crop category.

Hybrid

The first generation progeny of a cross between two different plants of the same species often resulting in a plant that is more vigorous and productive than either parent.

Interspecific hybrid

Hybrid resulting from two different but closely related species within the same genera being crossed together e.g., Meadow Brome is a cross between Bromus inermis and bromus riparius

Intergeneric hybrid

Hybrids resulting from two different genera being crossed together, e.g., Festulolium as a cross between Festuca pratensis and Lolium perenne.

Self-pollination

Fertilization of a plant by its own pollen.

4.0 Specific inspection procedures

Inspection of pedigreed seed crops covered in this SWI should be carried out as described in SWI 142.1.1 – Pedigreed Seed Crop Inspection, with the additional conditions and information provided in the following sections.

4.1 Assessment of the application for seed crop inspection

The application for crop inspection should be reviewed to determine if the crop is eligible for certification based on the age of stand. For perennial crops, CSGA sets standards for the maximum age that a stand/crop may reach and still produce pedigreed seed. The age of stand may be extended with the permission of CSGA on a case by case basis. The breeder may, at their discretion, set ages of stand for crops producing seed of their variety that are different than the CSGA standards. Where this has occurred, the ages of stand are listed on the variety description in the "Additional information" section. If the crop appears to be beyond the allowable age of stand, the inspector can still complete the inspection but may want to discuss the age of stand with the grower who can contact CSGA for verification of the field's eligibility for certification. If a crop was certified the prior year, the expiry year of the field will be accessible on the SeedCert Applications tab or in the field application.

The inspector must check tags to verify the pedigree of the seed used for planting but for perennial crops, only needs to verify that information once; usually in first year of inspection.

4.2 Crop inspection

Each grass crop requires inspection at full head emergence, while legumes must be in bloom.

Most forage varieties have the three classes established by CSGA: Breeder, Foundation and Certified. In some cases, the Breeder and/or the official seed certification authority in the state or country of origin establishes a Registered class for a particular variety. A list of varieties with a Registered class can be found on SeedCert.

Grass/legume crops should be inspected to the standards of the highest class the field may be eligible to produce, unless the grower specifically request inspection to a lower standard in their application or by using the Form 115 "Intention to Harvest a Specific Class" form available in SeedCert. Factors affecting the class produced include:

  1. the class of seed used to establish the crop
  2. seed classes established for the variety
  3. previous land use
  4. the age of stand
  5. isolation
  6. impurities

When inspecting chickling vetch, the seed crop inspector must report previous land use and isolation distances equivalent to those for lentil, as found in Circular 6, Section 3. The count area when inspecting chickling vetch is based on a 10,000 plant count rather than by area.

For grass/legume inspections, two off-type characteristics must be identified and reported. If only one off-type characteristic can be observed, then the second characteristic can be stated as "otherwise conforms". "Tall and immature" is not acceptable for the two off-type characteristics requirement. If using "tall and immature", another morphological off-type characteristic will need to be provided.

When encountering plants in crops of green wheatgrass that appear to be couchgrass, the plants are to be considered plants of green wheatgrass. However, following green wheatgrass production, the onus will be on the grower to ensure thorough volunteer control. When encountering plants in fields that were previously used to produce green wheatgrass, the plants that appear to be couchgrass have to be reported as couchgrass. The onus is on the grower to present information to the contrary to the CSGA.

4.3 Isolation

Production fields must be isolated from plants of the same species of different or unknown varieties in order to maintain varietal purity. Species must be isolated using distances as prescribed in Circular 6, unless otherwise described in the variety description.

Comments must be made on the crop report to indicate any sources of contaminating pollen within the required isolation distance, including the area, density, stage of maturity and location of the contaminating source relative to the field.

For some crops, growers have two alternatives to correct isolation distance discrepancies: border removal in lieu of isolation and the 10% rule.

A grower may choose to remove the border from the inspected grass crop in lieu of a required isolation. However, this requires an arrangement to be made for a second inspection to be conducted. The inspector must ensure that the border was allowed to shed pollen before being discarded. Evidence of the discarded border must be verified at the second inspection. Requirements for border removal in lieu of isolation are further outlined in Circular 6.

For Certified production of alfalfa (including hybrid), timothy and creeping red fescue, an isolation correction may not be required if less than 10% of the field is affected. In the comments section of the crop report, inspectors are required to report dimensions of the contamination in order for CSGA to calculate if the 10% rule is applicable. Diagrams may be necessary to clearly describe the scenario and allow calculations when more than one source of contamination is present along the field's edges. Inspectors are not expected to apply the 10% rule themselves on the report of crop inspection. If the varietal isolation is poor, it should always be rated as such even if the 10% rule can be applied. If the LSCI completes the 10% rule calculation they must show their work and state if the 10% rule can be applied in comments. CSGA will contact the grower and state if the 10% can be applied and provide the isolation requirement. A re-inspection will be required to ensure the isolation correction was made. CSGA produced the "Technical Guideline – 10% Rule" document which should be available to inspectors on SeedCert. The "Technical Guideline – 10% Rule" document focuses on what information is required for CSGA to complete the 10% rule calculation and provides example calculations.

5.0 Inspection of interspecific or intergeneric grass hybrids

When a variety is an intergeneric or interspecific hybrid, it may be difficult to distinguish between the hybrid and either parental species. An example of an intergeneric hybrid is Festulolium which is a cross between Fescue and ryegrass. Examples of interspecific hybrids include hybrid brome grass, hybrid ryegrass and green wheatgrass. Green wheatgrass was developed through hybridization of couchgrass (quackgrass) and beardless wheatgrass.

6.0 Inspection procedures for hybrid alfalfa

This inspection procedure refers to alfalfa hybrids resulting from controlled pollination. It does not refer to interspecific hybrids between Medicago sativa and Medicago falcata.

The only pedigreed class of hybrid alfalfa seed is Certified status. Parental lines used to produce the variety or to maintain a male sterile parent are Breeder or Foundation status. Hybrid alfalfa production may involve the blending of parental seed in specific ratios with the seed of male sterile (female) parent line and either the maintainer line (fertile male for male sterile parent seed production) parent or fertile (male) lines being harvested.

For certified production, a technical blend is a mixture of male sterile (female) parent line and fertile (male) parent line in specific ratios under the supervision of the plant breeder. This is known as a Synthetic Select Seed (CSGA label) and this production is used in lieu of planting the male sterile (female) line and fertile (male) line in bays or rows. Fields may also be seeded in rows alternating between a row of male sterile (female) plants followed by the technical blend of male sterile (female)/fertile (male) plants. When fields are seeded in rows or bays and only the female plants are harvested, then the harvested seed will be of Breeder or Foundation status.

For foundation/breeder parent line production, the male sterile (female) line will be produced in rows or bays with a fertile (male) maintainer line (i.e. male sterile x maintainer). The maintainer line parent or fertile (male) lines are produced in the same way as conventional alfalfa fields with only a single line in the field.

Descriptions of the parental lines of registered hybrids are available in CSGA's SeedCert. When conducting an inspection for hybrid alfalfa or the male sterile (female) line, the variety description for both the male sterile (female) and fertile (male) parent of the variety are required.

During field inspection of certified hybrid production, the field must be assessed to determine if the frequency of sterile (female) plants present via the pollen production index method meets the minimum of 75%.

6.1 Pollen production index for certified hybrid alfalfa production

At the time of inspection, the pollen production pndex (PPI) of the male sterile (female) parent must be determined by examining untripped flowers. The inspector should randomly select areas throughout the field to examine untripped flowers to determine the pollen production index. In each area, trip flowers approximately every step until a total of 200 plants are examined in the field. Consult with the variety representative's CFIA approved hybrid production PPI protocols. Inspectors should verify the presence of bees in a hybrid field as bee activity increases the presence of tripped flowers in the field.

Tripped Flowers
Tripped Flowers
UnTripped Flowers
UnTripped Flowers

Seed crop inspectors must classify each plant as the following:

Table 1. Determination of pollen production index
Classification Abbreviation Description of Pollen Present PPI Factor
Male Sterile MS No pollen present.
Anther sacs may be present
0
Partially Male Sterile PMS Trace of pollen 0.1
Partially Fertile PF Substantially less than normal amount of pollen 0.6
Fertile F Normal pollen 1

Seed crop inspectors must be careful when examining pollen to determine the level of fertility as empty pollen sacks may be confused with viable pollen. Empty pollen sacks can be found on fully sterile flowers.

If less than 68% of the plants are male sterile, then no further examinations are required because the crop will not meet CSGA requirements. If more than 80% of the plants are male sterile, no further examinations are required because the crop will clearly meet CSGA requirements. If between 68% and 80% of the plants are male sterile, then another 100 plants shall be sampled and included in the calculation.

Calculation for % male sterile plants:

% MS plants

As field examination is completed, the results for inspected crop's pollen production index must be reported on the pollen production index worksheet and submitted along with the completed seed crop inspection report. The inspector should request a copy of the pollen production index worksheet from their ASCIS. The information on the worksheet should include documentation of the shape of the field, the travel pattern followed and the location at which plants were examined to obtain the pollen production index.

After examining all required plants (200 or 200 + 100), calculate the pollen production index using the following calculations:

Table 2. Calculation for pollen production index
Number of Plants Examined PPI Factor Result
Total MS 0 (Total MS) x 0 = 0
Total PMS 0.1 (Total PMS) x 0.1 = A
Total PF 0.6 (Total MS) x 0.6 = B
Total F 1 (Total MS) x 1 = C

Pollen production index

Following are CSGA standards for the maximum allowable pollen production index for different levels of pedigreed production and hybridity.

Table 3. Maximum allowable pollen production index
Pedigreed Status Type or Level of Hybridity PPI
Foundation Male Sterile (female) Parent 0.14
Certified 95% Hybridity 0.06
Certified 75% Hybridity 0.42

Refer to Appendix I for a process flow diagram explaining hybrid alfalfa inspection procedures.

Appendix I: Process flow diagram for determining number of plants to inspect and the pollen production index of the inspected field:

Process flow diagram showing the steps to follow for the determination of the number of plants to inspect and the pollen production index of the inspected field
Description of the process flow diagram

The process flow diagram illustrates the steps to follow to determine the number of plants to inspect and the pollen production index of the inspected field.

The first step is the examination of 200 untripped flowers in a representative manner followed by a calculation of the percentage of male sterile plants. The number of male sterile plants is divided by the total number of plants examined and multiplied by 100. If the percentage is between 68% and 80%, 100 more plants have to be examined and included in the calculation. If the percentage is less than 68% or more than 80%, the pollen production index field inspection is completed.

Following the field inspection, there are 3 more steps:

  1. Recording and classifying each examined plant as male sterile, partially male sterile, partially fertile or fertile on the pollen production index worksheet.
  2. Determining the value for each fertility category by adding the number of plants in each classification and multiplying the total number by the pollen production index factor for that classification
  3. Determining the pollen production index value by adding the multiplied numbers from each classification together then dividing by the total number of plants tripped.

Appendix II: Forage crop trait diagrams

The following diagrams have been included to aid in identifying plants. Additional diagrams of each species are included along with the species descriptions in Appendix III.

Grass Plant Botanical Parts Description

Parts of a typical grass plant
Reprinted with Permission from Remedial Measures Primer
Source : www.for.gov.bc.ca
The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development of British Colombia
Description of Grass Plant Botanical Parts image

The image shows each botanical part and terms of a typical grass plant.

Alfalfa Leaflet: Shape (Measure Central Leaflet)

Alfalfa Leaflet Shapes showing the range of characteristics from Round to Lanceolate

Alfalfa Pod Shape

Alfalfa Pod Shapes showing the range from sickle shape to crescent-shape with three spirals

Grass Growth Habit

Growth habits for plants showing the range from erect to prostrate

Appendix III: Descriptions of forages and related species

The following section describes some inspected forage species and native plants in terms of characteristics that may be present at the time of inspection. This section also provides the scientific names of the species as they are listed in the Seeds Regulations.

Alfalfa (Medicago spp.)

alfalfa plant, flower and seed pod
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies. Swift Current, SK: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 351.

Alfalfa is a widely grown perennial legume with a woody yet narrow crown, tap roots and flowers borne on racemes in various shades of blue, purple, cream and white. Pods range in shape from sickle to spiral with one or more coils. Leaflets are 9.5 mm to 3.2 cm long, obovate and sharply toothed towards the apex. Traditional varieties are trifoliate, however an increasing number of multi-foliolate varieties (more than 3 leaflets per leaf) have been developed. The erect stems usually reach 30 to 90 cm.

Some yellow flowered varieties of M. falcata have been developed; these have a decumbent growth pattern with a deeply set crown and branching roots. The two species interpollinate and many varieties of M. sativa contain M. falcata germplasm.

Traits useful in distinguishing among alfalfa varieties:

Physiological stresses that may affect alfalfa plant appearance:

Black Medick (Medicago lupulina)

black medick plant, flower and seed pod
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 351.

Black medick is usually an annual plant but in some rare cases, under favourable environments, they can survive as short-lived perennial plants. The roots of this species are in a branching system. The growth habit is prostrate when it reaches maturity; sometimes it grows up to 80 cm. The leaves are green, trifoliate and covered with fine hairs. The small yellow flowers of the black medick are composed of small florets and the shape is similar to the flowers of clovers. The kidney-shaped seedpods are black and usually 3 mm in length. Its distinguishable features are its leaves and the small yellow flower clusters.

Birdsfoot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)

birdsfoot trefoil plant, flower and seed pod
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.Swift Current, SK: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 359.

Birdsfoot trefoil is a perennial forage with weak roots as a seedling, but that has a strong, well-developed tap root system with many branches once mature. It has several stems arising from the root crown. The slender and moderately leafy stems are usually 60 to 90 cm in height, and thinner and more flexible than those of alfalfa. Its compound leaflets close over the petiole and stem in darkness.

The flowers of birdsfoot trefoil vary from light to dark yellow in colour, with four to eight florets. Multiple seed pods that attach to the stem at right angles give it the appearance of a bird's foot. Birdsfoot trefoil pods are long and cylindrical, which turn brown to black and maturity. Due to the proximity of the flowers to the ground, birdsfoot trefoil is capable of reseeding itself even while being closely grazed.

The Common type of birdsfoot trefoil has an early and erect spring growth habit, as well as a rapid seedling and recovery growth. The Empire type of birdsfoot trefoil flowers 10 to 14 days later than the Common, and has a semi-erect growth habit.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Alsike Clover (Trifolium hybridum)

alsike clover plant, flower and seed pod
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Alsike Clover. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 357.

Varieties of alsike clover are either diploid (2n=16) or tetraploid (2n=32). Diploid types are the most commonly grown. Tetraploid varieties tend to have larger flowers and leaves, and are taller and later maturing than their diploid counterparts. Tillers grow profusely from the crown of Alsike clover, and its stems are at least as long as those of red clover, though more slender and prostrate. It has pink or white flowering heads which are somewhat smaller than those of red clover. Both its leaves and stems are glabrous. It differs from red clover in that the main axis of the stem does not end in a flowering head but rather keeps growing. Flowering branches grow successively from each leaf axil, causing the youngest flowers to be those in the terminal heads and the oldest heads to be located farther down on the stem towards the crown.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Physiological stresses that may affect alsike clover plant appearance:

Prairie Clover (Dalea sp.)

prairie clover plant
Source: Best, Keith F., Budd, Archibald C.. 1964. Wild Plants of the Canadian Prairies. Publication 983. Ottawa, Ontario.

Two types of prairie clover exist - white and purple.

Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) can grow up to 91 cm tall, with its leaves at the base of its stem. The stem can be ascending or erect, 20 to 91 cm long. Leaves are alternate and pinnately compound. The leaves are 1.2 to 4.4 cm long, while the leaflets are 1.2 to 1.9 cm long and less than 2.5 mm wide. The leaflets have pointed tips, and often have edges which roll inwards towards their upper side. Flowers are purple or pinkish with five stamens.

White prairie clover (Dalea candida) grows to 45 to 60 cm high. It is usually unbranched or only sparsely branched. Its central stem is light green and has longitudinal lines running up it. Leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, with 3 to 9 leaflets per leaf. Leaflets are either linear or narrowly oblanceolate. The leaflet margins are smooth, and there are numerous translucent dots on the underside of each leaf. Flowers are arranged on a 2.5 to7.6 cm spike found at the end of each major stem. Each flower is white, with 5 petals and 5 white stamens. The root system includes a central taproot which can go as deep as 1.5 m down into the earth.

The two types of prairie clover can be distinguished by the length of the flowering spikes (usually longer in white prairie clover), and the foliage (lighter, longer and more sparse in white prairie clover).

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

red clover plant, flower and leaf
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Red Clover. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 355.

Two types of red clover exist: single and double cut. Most varieties grown in Canada are of the double cut type. It has a taproot system as well as many secondary branches.

Red clover plants are composed of numerous leafy stems arising from a crown. The stems and leaves of American strains are generally pubescent while European strains are glabrous. Each leaf is made up of three oblong leaflets usually bearing a characteristic white or pale green, inverted V leaf markings in the centre of each leaflet (Heath et al., 1978). The heads are compact clusters of up to 125 flowers. Under favourable conditions, these flowers are 9 to10.5 mm long (Heath et al., 1978). Flower colour varies from magenta to pale pink.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

White Clover (Trifolium repens)

white clover plant, flower and leaf
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. White Clover. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 2: 358.

White clover is a short to long lived perennial with a shallow tap root system and very small crowns. The primary stems are short with many internodes. Its flowers are usually white, though occasionally they are tinged with pink. The flowers of white clover are borne on peduncles that are somewhat longer than the petioles. There are 20 to 150 florets per head. Each leaf has 3 leaflets, and each leaflet usually has a v-shaped white mark in its centre. The leaflets are usually elliptical to heart shaped. The seeds of white clover are small and yellow. Its stems are glabrous, have a prostrate growth habit, and grows to 30 to 45 cm tall. The stolon of white clover is solid.

The species is highly polymorphic resulting in a great deal of variation in plant and plant part size.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Sainfoin (Obobrychis viciaefolia)

sainfoin plant and flower
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Sainfoin is a deep-rooted legume that usually grows taller than alfalfa, to a height of 1 m or more. The stems of sainfoin are upright and hollow, but appear very succulent, and it has a root system consisting of deep tap roots with many side branches.

The leaves have 6 to 14 pairs of leaflets which are more or less hairy. The flowers are large and either rosy pink or white in colour, and appear on spike-like heads up to 15 cm long, one to two weeks before alfalfa blossoms. The flowers are characteristic of this crop. Pods which are less than 1 cm long, hairy, and toothed on the margins contain single seeds, roughly 3 mm in length, shatter as they mature.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Sweetclover (Melilotus alba and Melilotus officinalis)

sweetclover plant, flower and seed pod
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada. Vol. 2: 352.

Sweetclover is typically a biennial legume, with a deeply penetrating taproot similar to that of alfalfa. It has trifoliate leaves, with leaflets that tend to be toothed around the margin (as opposed to only at the tip as in alfalfa). Sweetclovers have small and narrow stipules. Seed pods typically contain one seed but occasionally have two.

Two types of sweetclover exist; white sweetclover (M. alba) and yellow sweetclover (M. officinalis). White sweetclover is taller and has coarser leaves and stem than yellow sweetclover. Yellow sweetclover has a finer stem and matures earlier than the white sweetclover.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Cicer Milkvetch (Astragalus cicer)

cicer milkvetch plant, flower and feuille
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Cicer Milk-Vetch. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Cicer milkvetch is a long-lived, perennial legume with a deep, vigorous root system which may be as wide as 120 cm in good conditions. While growth is upright when young, the stems tend to droop down as the plant matures. Plant height rarely exceeds 60 cm, even though the stems may be up to 120 cm long. Its stems are succulent, coarse and hollow. Leaves are divided into many leaflets (usually 10 to 13 leaflets plus one terminal leaflet per leaf). Flowers are white to pale yellow, and are borne on racemes. There are 20 to 60 flowers per raceme. The pods are pale yellow to white when young, turning black and leathery as the seeds mature. The seeds are flattened, very hard and roughly twice as large as those of alfalfa, with 3 to 11 seeds per pod.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Crownvetch (Coronilla varia)

crownvetch plant, flower and seed pod
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Crownvetch. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Crownvetch is a perennial that derives its name from its vetch-like leaves and crown-shaped flower arrangement. It has a deep and branching tap root with many fleshy creeping roots that can develop to a length of 3 m or more.

Flowers are a variegated white to purple colour and are borne on angular, decumbent to ascending hollow stems ranging from 30 to 120 cm in length. The pods are long and cylindrical with 3 to12 segments. Its leaves are alternate and pinnately compound, with 9 to 25 leaflets per leaf.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Canadian Milkvetch (Astragalus canadensis)

Canadian milkvetch plant and flower
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA NRCS. Wetland flora: Field office illustrated guide to plant species. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Canadian milkvetch is a perennial legume with underground rhizomes. Plants of this species may be large and robust once established, with plant height ranging from 12 to 40 inches. The leaves are odd-pinnately compound; leaflets are medium green, 1 to 4 cm long, and 5 to 15 mm wide. Generally, they are smooth or slightly hairy on the upper surface with stiff, short hairs on the underside.

The flowers are creamy, greenish white and about 1/2 to 3/4 inch long in a dense spike-like head. Flowering occurs from May to August. The pods contain several seeds that are small, smooth, and brownish yellow-green.

Chickling Vetch (Lathyrus sativus)

chickling vetch plant, flower and seed pod
Source: V.O. Biederbeck and A.J. Leyshon. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Swift Current, Saskatchewan. 1992

Chickling vetch also known as azure blue sweet pea, Indian vetch and grass pea is bushy-vined annual with one to several upright winged stems to 1 m high. The leaves consist of 1-2 pairs of linear leaflets 2-15 cm long and 3-7 mm wide. Leaves end with a branched tendril.

The flowers are located in upper leaf axils and are bluish-purple or occasionally white. The flowers are 12-24 mm in diameter (pea-like).

The legume pod is 1-1.8 cm wide, 2-4 cm long and contain 2-4 seeds. The seeds are typically 6.0-8.0 mm in diameter, and can be beige to dark brown in colour. Usually, the seeds are heavily speckled dark brown to black.

It is grown as a cover crop. There are no visual characteristics that distinguish varieties.

Creeping Bentgrass (Agrostis palustris, Agrostis stolonifera)

creeping bentgrass plant, floret and leaf
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada. Vol. 1: 203.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies. Swift Current, SK: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Creeping bentgrass is a cool-season, stoloniferous grass which forms a dense turf. Its culms are prostrate, and grow to 39 to 100 cm long. It has blue-green leaves, approximately 3 mm wide and 2 to 10 cm long. The short and mostly basal leaves are usually rough on their upper and lower sides as well as the margins. It has no auricles but has a long, tapered ligule. Its stolons are usually white. Like all bentgrasses, its seeds are very small. It's open to somewhat narrow panicle that may reach up to 40 cm in height bears many tiny reddish/ purplish flowers.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Alpine Bluegrass (Poa alpina)

alpine bluegrass plant, floret and seedpod
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada. Vol. 1: 254.

Alpine bluegrass is an erect, short bunchgrass with culms, growing 20 to 60 cm tall. Its flowers are set in a panicle 2.5 to 5 cm long. Its leaves are thick and fleshy, and tend to be dark green in colour.

Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis)

kentucky bluegrass plant, floret and leaves
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Kentucky Bluegrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Kentucky bluegrass is a long lived perennial grass. It has a dense network of creeping and deep feeding roots. The stems are usually 30 to 60 cm high, with several in a tuft. Leaves are green to dark green, shiny, smooth, soft, and mostly basal, ranging from 10 to 30 cm long, folded in the shoot and boat-shaped at the tip. The ligule is very short and membranous and there is no auricles. Its inflorescence is an open, pyramidal panicle roughly 5 to 20 cm long, usually with 5 branches at each node. Of the five nodular branches, the centre and outer branches are long and the others are short. The spikelets are 3 to 5 flowered, located primarily at the ends of branches. Each seed has a mat of cobweb-like hairs at its base.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Meadow Bromegrass (Bromus biebersteinii)

meadow bromegrass plant
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Meadow Bromegrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Meadow bromegrass is a relatively early maturing, long-lived, densely tufted perennial used for pasture. Its sheath and numerous light green leaves are usually pubescent. The leaves which are predominantly basal are attached to stems that may reach 60 to 120 cm in height, with an open panicle at the end. The seed head is 10 to 20 cm long, and the seed 10 to 12 mm long. The plants head and mature 7 to 10 days earlier than smooth bromegrass.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Smooth Bromegrass (Bromus inermis)

smooth bromegrass plant, floret and leaves
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Smooth Bromegrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Smooth bromegrass is a leafy, cool-season sod-forming perennial that spreads underground by rhizomes and is readily propagated by seed. Its stems are usually between 60 to 120 cm long, but only half of the tillers actually produce stems. The basal and stem leaves are tender, broad and long and form a tubular sheath. In early summer, stems are produced on which large, open panicles are found. The panicle type head composed of many florets produces a heavy seed crop. Individual seeds are enclosed in brownish husks that may have a short awn up to 3 mm long. At pollen shed, visible clouds of pollen are disseminated at intervals over several days.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Reed Canarygrass (Phalaris arundinacea)

reed canarygrass plant, florets
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada. Vol. 1: 170.

Reed canarygrass is a long-lived perennial which grows in clumps and spreads by underground rhizomes and stands between 60 and 240 cm tall. It has deep feeding roots and leafy stems thick enough to prevent most lodging, and long, wide, light green basal leaves. Its flowers are borne in semidense, spikelike panicles 5 to 20 cm in length. Many spikelets containing only one formed seed grow on each branch of the head. The seeds are shiny brown and narrow and as long as flax seeds.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Alpine Fescue (Festuca brachyphylla)

alpine fescue plant
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. Illustrated Flora of the Northern States and Canada. Vol. 1: 271.

The stems usually grow 5 to 35 cm high and have an erect growth habit. Its leaves are folded, and mostly in a basal tuft and are blueish-green to yellow-green in colour, possibly with a purple tinge. The leaves are 2 to 10 cm long, and 0.1 to 2 mm wide when folded. Its sheaths are glabrous or weakly pubescent, and fused only in their lower part, with no auricles. Its inflorescence is paniculate and often spike-like, usually 1.5 to 4 cm long and 5 to 7 mm wide.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Hard Fescue (Festuca longifolia, Festuca ovina, Festuca trachyphylla)

hard fescue plant
Copyright © 2004 Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc. Reproduced with permission

Hard fescue is a cool-season, semi-erect bunchgrass, with leaves 5 to15 cm long. Leaves are greyish-green or pale blue-green, narrow and tightly infolded. Panicles are erect, and can be loose, contracted, oblong or narrow. Seed heads range in length from 2.5 to 12.7 cm long. Spikelets have 4 to 9 flowers. Hard fescue produces a significant number of roots, but has no rhizomes and so spreads by tillering.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis)

meadow fescue plant
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Meadow Fescue. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Meadow fescue is a short-lived perennial. It grows 40 to 75 cm tall and has rather succulent, bright green leaves and leaf sheaths that are smooth and reddish purple at the base. The predominantly basal leaves are glossy on the underside. The panicles of meadow fescue somewhat resemble those of Kentucky bluegrass. It does not propagate by rootstocks or form a heavy sod, but does develop a large number of tough, coarse roots.

Red Fescue (Festuca rubra)

red fescue plant and florets
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the
Grasses of the United States. USDA Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC.

The three distinct forms of red fescue are distinguishable by their creeping habits.

Creeping red fescue spreads by strong rhizomes. Chewings fescue does not possess extensive creeping rootstocks and is therefore tufted and does not spread. The foliage has a finer texture, a brighter green colour, and the seed stems are shorter than those of creeping fescue. The third type is intermediate in stature between creeping and chewings types and forms short rhizomes.

All red fescues have deep feeding roots. The leaves are basal, shiny, folded and bright green, except for the reddish lower sheath. The stems are nearly leafless, shiny and up to 1 m tall for the strongly creeping types. The seed head is a closed panicle with purple-tinged spikelets of awned seed hulls.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Sheep Fescue (Festuca ovina)

sheep fescue plant
Copyright © 2004 Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc. Reproduced with permission

Sheep fescue closely resembles Bluebunch (Idaho) fescue. It is a deep rooted plant with dense basal leafage that is fine, long and of a green colour. It spreads by tufts which grow at the edge of the clumps. The sparse 30 to 60 cm long, nearly leafless stems bear a 5 to 15 cm closed panicle bearing florets with long awns.

Rocky Mountain Fescue (Festuca saximontana)

rocky mountain fescue plant, florets, leaves and seeds
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Rocky Mountain fescue is a densely tufted perennial with a fibrous root system. The stems are hairless and 10 to 50 cm tall. Most of the leaves arise in a basal tuft and are 1 mm wide and 5 to 15 cm long. The very slender blades are folded to inroll, hairless and are green in colour. The round to slightly compressed sheaths are split and mostly hairless and smooth, of light green colour with overlapping margins. The basal sheaths are yellow to brown in colour and are persistent. Very short membranous ligules with fringed hairs are present, though no auricles exist. The 2 to 10 cm long panicles are linear-lanceolate in shape with erect branches. The 2 to 3 mm long lanceolate shaped glumes accompany the 2 to 4 mm long lemmas that are roughened on the back with awns 1 to 3 mm long.

Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea)

tall fescue plant, florets and seeds
Soucee: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Tall fescue is a long-lived perennial with an open bunch growth habit having deep, coarse roots and short rhizomes. It has numerous shiny, dark green, ribbed leaves. The branched, panicle-type heads are 10 to30 cm long and borne on seed stalks that are 100 to 150 cm in height. Tall fescue produces 5 to 7 short-awned seeds per spikelet that are similar in size and shape to ryegrass but have a purple tinge on the glumes or chaff and a dark purple tinge on the caryopsis. Tall fescue has a number of small hairs on the auricle that do not appear on meadow fescue.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa)

tufted hairgrass plant, florets and leaves
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC.
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Tufted hairgrass is a perennial bunchgrass with a dense and shallow fibrous root system. It grows from 20 to 120 cm tall, and its stems are unbranched. The head is a feathery panicle which has several branches growing in whorls of 6 or 10 at points 2 to 3 cm apart. Spikelets are roughly 3 mm long, with awnless glumes as long as the entire spikelet. Each spikelet contains 2 dark brown to black seeds. Tufted hairgrass has abundant, glabrous, narrow leaves which are typically 12 to 20 cm in length. The leaves which are usually 1.5 to 3 mm wide are folded, and swelling is noticeable where the sheath and blade join.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata)

orchardgrass plant, florets and leaves
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Like most other grasses, orchardgrass produces a fibrous root system that is deep and dense, resulting in tussocks. Its shiny leaves are folded in the bud and in cross-section appear v-shaped. Leaf blades are 2 to 12 mm wide and may reach a length of 1 m. Leaves vary in colour from light green to dark blue-green. The sheath is compressed and strongly keeled with no auricles. Many leaf characteristics will vary according to the variety and the environmental conditions in which the plant is grown. Although the flowering stems have few leaves, there are many basal leaves. The flowering stems are generally 1 to 1.7 m high and end in panicles 10 to 25 cm long that are composed of spikelets bearing 2 to 5 florets. The lowermost branches of the panicle are longer and more branching than those near the top. In general the panicle is closed, but when open during the short flowering period, it has purplish appearance. The panicle has a distinctive appearance: the flower clusters are borne at the ends of the panicle branches in an asymmetrical pattern, giving the panicle a rather lumpy form. Orchardgrass is also known as "cock's-foot" due to the shape of its seed head.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Ryegrass (Lolium sp.)

annual ryegrass plant and perennial ryegrass plant
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Italian Ryegrass, Perennial Ryegrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Ryegrasses are bunchgrasses with no creeping growth habit.

Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) grows to approximately 90 cm in height with erect culms. The leaf sheathes are dark green and glabrous, and the leaf blades are folded in the young shoots. Its stems are usually 30 to 60 cm tall and are nearly leafless, ending in a stiff, slender spike. The spike is usually slightly curved and up to 30 cm in length. There are up to 35 spikelets per spike which are set at right angles to the stem with 2 to 10 fertile florets per spikelet. The caryopsis of perennial ryegrass is generally awnless.

Annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum), also known as Italian ryegrass, has erect culms but is generally taller than perennial ryegrass, reaching up to 130 cm in height. Annual ryegrass also has an abundance of glabrous leaf sheathes but the leaf blades are rolled in the young shoots. The leaves are typically dark green. The spikes are 17 to 30 cm long, with up to 38 spikelets per spike and 11 to 22 fertile flowers per spike. Unlike perennial ryegrass, the caryopsis of annual ryegrass is generally awned at various lengths. As with perennial ryegrass, the spikelets are set at right angles to the stem. Italian ryegrass can be distinguished from perennial ryegrass by the characteristic awn and stem and by the arrangement of the leaves as they emerge. As well, annual ryegrass is typically yellow-green at the base, while perennial ryegrass is more often reddish.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Timothy (Phleum pratense)

timothy plant, florets and leaves
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Timothy is a perennial bunchgrass characterized by its dense cylindrical spike that may reach up to 15 cm in length and erect stems. Most varieties are 80 to110 cm in height and have flat elongated leaves. The spikelets usually have one floret. Timothy differs from most grasses in that one and sometimes several basal stem internodes become greatly swollen and produce a haplocorm or corm. New shoots develop from buds at the base of the stem below the haplocorm. From these shoots, new stems arise and develop new haplocorms and the old stem or haplocorm dies. Timothy roots are relatively shallow and fibrous. The leaves of timothy are soft, light green, and grow 5 to 15 cm long. Its small seeds are enclosed in an awned, urn-shaped husk.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Crested Wheatgrass (Agropyron cristatum and Agropyron desertorum)

crested wheatgrass plant and florets
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Crested Wheatgrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Two types of crested wheatgrass exist - the diploid (2n = 14) (Agropyron cristatum) type and the tetraploid standard type (2n = 28) (Agropyron desertorum). The diploid type is shorter, has smaller seeds and finer leaves and stems than the standard type.

Crested wheatgrass is a long-lived, bunch-type grass with a deep, fibrous root system. Stem habit is upright and can reach a height of up to 90 cm. Seeds may or may not have awns.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Intermediate Wheatgrass (Elytrigia intermedia formerly Agropyron intermedium)

intermediate wheatgrass plant, florets, seeds and leaves
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Intermediate wheatgrass is a short-lived, sod-forming perennial grass. Its extensive deep-feeding root system also has creeping root stalks. It has an erect growth habit with heavy basal leaf growth, and can reach a height of 90 to 150 cm by maturity. It can be distinguished from other closely related grasses as many of the leaves have short hairs along the edge. The heads are usually 15 to 25 cm long and are typical of wheatgrasses. The seed heads are made up of spikelets spaced at one per node, each containing two to six seeds similar in size to oats. The pointed glumes are one half the length of the spikelet.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Northern Wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus formerly Agropyron dasystachyum)

northern wheatgrass plant, florets and leaves
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Northern wheatgrass, also known as thickspike wheatgrass, is a long-lived perennial with a three-way root system made up of creeping underground rootstocks, a dense shallow root system which penetrates to a depth of about 25 cm, and a couple of deep roots which can penetrate to a depth of at least 60 cm.

Plants are tufted with erect leaves and stems that grow 45 to 75 cm high. The leaves are a light greyish-green and are rolled when conditions are dry. Its seed heads are 6 to 12 cm long. The seed is generally 50% larger than that of crested wheatgrass.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Pubescent Wheatgrass (Agropyron trichophorum)

pubescent wheatgrass plant and florets
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Pubescent Wheatgrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Pubescent wheatgrass is a long-lived, sod-forming grass which closely resembles intermediate wheatgrass, but can be distinguished by the presence of short stiff hairs (pubescence) on its heads and seeds. The two species reproduce together easily, resulting in a gradual grading between the two species (i.e., there are plants which carry traits of both and appear to be a mix of the two). Because of this grading, it has been suggested that they should be called the same species (Agropyron intermedium). However, pubescent wheatgrass is both more drought tolerant and longer lived than intermediate wheatgrass.

It has an erect growth habit with heavy growth of basal leaves. Its stems grow to a height of 90 to 150 cm with seed heads that are 10 to 20 cm long. The plant, seed heads, and seed are all somewhat hairy.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Siberian Wheatgrass (Agropyron sibericum, Agropyron fragile)

Siberian wheatgrass plant
Copyright © 2004 Pawnee Buttes Seed Inc. Reproduced with permission

Siberian wheatgrass is a long-lived, drought-resistant bunchgrass. It is similar to crested wheatgrass, but has finer stems and more narrow seed heads with awnless glumes. As well, its leaves are more lax, and it tends to mature later than standard crested wheatgrass.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Slender Wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus formerly Agropyron trachycaulum)

Slender wheatgrass plant and florets
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Slender Wheatgrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Slender wheatgrass is a native, short-lived, perennial bunchgrass. It has a leafy, bunch growth habitat and a dense, fibrous root system that extends to a depth of 50 cm. Its bunches enlarge by tillering. Stems have an erect growth habit and are rather coarse. Seed stalks are 60 to 120 cm tall and have numerous leaves and spikes that are either dense or very open. Short awns extend from the seed hulls. Almost all plants have a reddish or purple colouring of the stems near their base. Leaves grow up to 30 cm long and 1.2 cm wide. It can be distinguished from other wheatgrasses by its slender seed head and larger seed.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Streambank Wheatgrass (Elymus lanceolatus formerly Agropyron riparium)

Steambank wheatgrass plant, florets and leaves
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Streambank Wheatgrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Streambank wheatgrass is a cool-season, long-lived grass. It resembles northern wheatgrass, but can be distinguished by its lack of hair on its seed heads and seeds, and narrower leaves. The numerous slender rhizomes of streambank wheatgrass are more vigorous than those of northern wheatgrass. In the past the two have been considered to be the same species, but now are generally recognized as being distinct. The leaves are a light greyish-green, tough, narrow and smooth, 10 to 25 cm long and can be somewhat curled at the margins. The stems grow to 90 cm high. The seed head is 5 to 10 cm long, and its seeds are somewhat larger than those of crested wheatgrass.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Tall Wheatgrass (Elytrigia elongata formerly Agropyron elongatum)

tall wheatgrass plant, florets, seeds and leaves
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Tall wheatgrass is a late maturing, coarse bunchgrass that grows by producing tufts on short rootstocks at the edge of mature plants. It has long, light-green, coarse basal leaves which surround several leafy stems that are 80 to 200 cm tall. Its seed heads are similar to those of intermediate wheatgrass, but are generally longer, from 15 to 25 cm in length. Unlike with western wheatgrass, the spikelets do not overlap. The spikelets and the four to ten enclosed seeds grow away from the stem like a sickle. Its seeds which are contained in glumes which are square across the tip are somewhat larger than that of intermediate wheatgrass, but tends to have a lower germination.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Western Wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii)

western wheatgrass plant, florets, seeds and leaves
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Western Wheatgrass. Alberta Forage Manual. 4thEdition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.

Western wheatgrass is also known as bluejoint. It has a well-developed root system made up of a mass of surface roots which feed to a depth of 20 cm and a set of deep feeding roots which can penetrate to a depth of up to 150 cm. It is very hardy and spreads by underground rhizomes.

The leaves of western wheatgrass are 20 to 30 cm long, and grow at a 45 degree angle to the stem. The plant as a whole grows 60 to 90 cm high. Its leaves are blue-green and more or less stiff and erect. The entire plant is covered with a greyish bloom, giving it a distinct colouration. Seed heads are 5 to 15 cm long, and the seed is roughly twice as large as that of crested wheatgrass.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties are:

Green wheatgrass (Elymus hoffmannii) (no image available)

Green wheatgrass is a intergeneric hybrid of couchgrass (Elytrigia repens) and beardless wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata). The seed and plants are very similar in appearance to those of couchgrass. The plants are less vigorous than those of couchgrass.

Altai Wildrye (Elymus angustus)

altai wildrye plant, floret and leaf
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Altai wildrye is a long lived perennial bunchgrass. It has a well-developed root system that can penetrate 3 to 4 m deep. It has coarse stems 60 to 120 cm long and coarse, wide, erect basal leaves, light green to blue green in colour which can reach lengths of 40 cm and widths of 12 mm. Its seed heads are 15 to 20 cm long with its seeds being 10 to 15 mm long, about three times larger than those of Russian wildrye.

Dahurian Wildrye (Elymus dahuricus) (no image available)

Dahurian wildrye is a short-lived, perennial bunchgrass with a shallow root system.

Russian Wildrye (Elymus junceus)

Russian wildrye plant, leaf and seed
Source: Wheeler, G. 1981. Russian Wildrye. Alberta Forage Manual. 4th Edition. Edmonton: Alberta Agriculture.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Russian wildrye is a long-lived, large bunchgrass. Its roots are fibrous and can grow to a depth of 3 m. In addition, its wide horizontal spread can be as wide as 1.2 to 1.5 m around the plant. It has many long, dense basal leaves that are 15 to 45 cm long and up to 6 mm wide. The leaves of Russian wildrye vary from light to dark green, with many falling into the blue-green colour range. It has erect, naked stems that grow to 60 to 120 cm tall, having a straw colour when mature. The seed head is made up of overlapping spikelets. Two spikelets at each node contain one to four or more seeds.

Beardless Wildrye (Elymus triticoides)

beardless wildrye plant
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC.

Beardless wildrye is a perennial, sod-forming grass with a well-branched root system that can reach 1.5 m deep. It has predominately basal leaves and culms that grow from 50 to 100 cm in height. This species is also sometimes called "creeping wildrye".

Traits useful in distinguishing varieties:

Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha)

junegrass plant, florets and leaf
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Junegrass is a perennial grass that forms small dense tufts of softly hairy to hairless stems reaching 20 to 50 cm tall. The light green to blue-green leaf blades are predominantly basal and are 4 mm wide and 5 to 12 cm long, with somewhat boat -shaped tips. The leaves are hairless on both surfaces to softly hairy with shiny small hairs. The leaf margins are roughened with narrow white nerves that are folded at emergence. The sheaths are round, split, roughened, somewhat hairy and distinctly veined. The basal sheaths are pale cream-coloured and slightly swollen at the crown. The membranous ligules extend up to 1 mm long and are blunt, often split and are usually fringed with tiny hairs. It has a spike-like panicle that is somewhat open during flowering and is pale green to purplish in colour and 4 to 10 cm long. The spikelets usually contain 2 flowers and are 4 to 5 mm long. The glumes are 2 to 3 and 3 to 4 mm long and lightly roughened on the keels. The lemmas are often short awned and finely roughened to sparsely hairy.

Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis)

blue grama plant, florets and leaf
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the Grasses of the United States. USDA Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC.

Blue grama produces a dense mat of short leaves growing from both short underground tillers and from the crown. The fine, curling basal leaves have a distinct grayish green colour to them. It has very narrow, tapering blades which are 2.5 to 17.5 cm long with ligules that are very short having ciliate hairs. The pith-filled stalks grow up to 50 cm in height and usually carry two dark brown, sickle shaped spikes, on which the flowers are clustered along the upper sides. Each spikelet contains a perfect floret (contains both the stamen and pistil).

Traits useful in distinguishing varieties:

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)

little bluestem plant, florets and leaf
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

Little bluestem is a warm season bunchgrass with an extensive, dense root system. The pith-filled stems can reach heights of 0.6 to 1.2 m. Leaves can grow up to 20 cm long, and 6.3 mm wide. Its leaves are flat with fine hairs above the ligules, starting out blue-green but turning a red-brown at maturity or after exposure to frost. Each stem is topped by a single branched panicle which produces hair-covered and awned seeds.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Fringed Bromegrass (Bromus ciliatus)

fringed bromegrass plant and leaf
Sources: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies. Swift Current, SK: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. Washington, DC.

Fringed bromegrass is a perennial grass which is normally tufted with a well-developed root system. Its culms are slender and normally reach 50 to 125 cm tall. The leaf blades are flat, 15 to 25 cm long and 3 to 15 mm wide, and normally rolled in the bud-shoot, eventually tapering to a sharp point. The leaves are slightly pubescent and dark green, and have a distinct mid-rib on the lower surface and a slightly ridged upper surface. Its panicle is open, usually between 7 to 18 cm long with ascending to drooping branches which hold seeds whose husks are partly or completely covered with short hairs, yet remain awnless.

Traits useful in distinguishing varieties:

Green Needlegrass (Stipa viridula)

green needlegrass plant, florets and seed
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.
Source: Tannas, Kathy. Common Plants of the Western Rangelands. Volume 1. Lethbridge, Alberta.

It is believed to be called "green" needlegrass because, unlike many forages, its seed heads and foliage remain fresh and green through the entire growing season. Green needlegrass is a perennial bunchgrass with small, awned, black, hair coloured seeds that look and feel like needles. It grows to a height of 0.45 to 1.5 m. Needlegrass has a dense fibrous root system. Its panicle is 10 to 20 cm long, compact, with narrow appressed branches. Lemmas are 5 to 6 mm long and glumes are 7 to 10 mm long. There are white hairs at the junction of the leaf blade and sheath as well as along the edges of the sheath.

Traits useful in distinguishing among varieties:

Needle and Thread Grass (Stipa comata)

needle and thread grass plant
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Misc. Publ. No. 200. Washington, DC.
Source: Looman, J. 1983. 111 Range and Forage Plants of the Canadian Prairies.
Swift Current, Saskatchewan: Research Branch, Agriculture Canada.

Needle and Thread grass is a cool-season native grass, named after the combination of sharp seeds combined with long, bent and twisted thread-like awns. The plant's narrow, green to gray coloured leaves grow in a dense cluster and reach 20 to 30 cm in height, and tend to roll in as they mature. It has predominately basal leaves and culms which reach 30 to 120 m high. Its panicle is 10 to 20 cm long and loosely spreading. This grass is characterized by its long, notched and frayed, membranous ligule. It has no auricles.

Traits useful in distinguishing varieties:

Prairie Cordgrass (Spartina pectinata)

prairie cordgrass plant and florets
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913. An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British Possessions. 3 vols. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. Vol. 1: 223.

Prairie cordgrass is a tall (6-8 feet), robust, native grass. Strong rhizomes with the ability to grow 5-10 feet per year separate this grass from other native warm season grasses. An easy characteristic to look for is the sharp, serrated edges of the leaf blade. Seedheads are composed of 10 to 20 spikes attached to the main stem. Each spike has up to 40 spikelets, all growing in two rows on the side of the spike away from the stem. The seed typically matures within a week or two of frost, and is flat, paper-like with barbed awns that attach firmly to fur or fabric. There are 197,000 seeds per pound.

Indian Ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides)

indian ricegrass plant
Source: USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2002. Plant Fact Sheet. Rose Lake Plant Materials Centre, East Lansing, Michigan.

Indian ricegrass is 8 to 30 inches tall. It has many tightly rolled, slender leaves, growing from the base of the bunch giving it a slightly wiry appearance. The ligule is about 6 mm long and acute. It has a wide spreading panicle inflorescence with a single flower at the end of each hair-like branch. Seeds are round to elongated, black or brown, and generally covered with a fringe of short, dense, white callus hairs. Indian ricegrass has fair to good seedling vigour.

Spike Trisetum (Trisetum spicatum)

spike trisetum plant and florets
Source: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Hitchcock, A.S. (rev. A. Chase). 1950. Manual of the grasses of the United States. USDA Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. Washington, DC.

Spike trisetum is an erect, densely tufted bunchgrass, without rhizomes, growing 2 to 20 inches tall. It flowers July–August.

The seedhead is a dense, spikelike panicle, 1 to 4 inches long, that is greenish or purplish in colour. Spikelets are up to 1/4 inch long, numerous, and usually contain two florets. Lemmas are short-hairy at the base and two-toothed at the tip. It has a bent, twisted awn about 3/8 inches long arising from the back of the lemma.

Leaf blades are flat or rolled at maturity, 2 to 6 inches long, pubescent to hairy. The sheaths are hairy and ligules are membranous and up to 1/8 inch long. The collar is shaped and serrated on the margin. Auricles are absent. Stems are erect and usually smooth.

Phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

phacelia plant
Source: USDA-NRCS Plants Database. 2009. Plants Profile. United States CA, Pioneertown

Phacelia tanacetifolia is a versatile plant that is used extensively in Europe, both as a cover crop and as bee forage. It is a herbaceous, non-leguminous, flowering annual.

Phacelia grows to a height of between 6 and 47 inches and has bristly stems and hairy, dark green leaves which grow to 5 inches long. The leaves appear ferny and the flowers appear in flat-topped clusters in various shades of purple, blue and occasionally white. The bell shaped flowers have 5 rounded petal ups to ¼ inch wide.

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