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Western Wheatgrass, (Agropyron smithii,) a tough native prairie grass, once covered nearly all of the state. The North Dakota Chapter of the Society for Range Management called for adopting an official state grass. Western Wheatgrass was selected for its adaptability to soil conditions, its performance record for hay and pasture, and its role in range management as a species found in all the state's counties. Western Wheatgrass was adopted in 1977, as North Dakota official state grass.
Pascopyrum is a monotypic genus of grass containing the sole species Pascopyrum smithii, which is known by the common name western wheatgrass, though the common nickname is red-joint wheatgrass, from the red coloration of the nodes. This is a sod-forming rhizomatous perennial grass which is native and common throughout most of North America. It grows in grassland and prairie in the Great Plains, where it is sometimes the dominant grass species. It is the state grass of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
Life Span: Perennial
Growth Characteristics: An erect, rather coarse grass, 1 to 2 ½ feet tall, with numerous rhizomes. Its growth starts when daytime temperatures are 12 - 13 degrees C. It is dormant in the summer, and begins growth again in the fall if soil moisture is adequate. Western wheatgrass reproduces from seeds and rhizomes.
Seedhead: Dense, narrow spike, 2 to 6 inches long; spikelets overlapping, 3/8 to ¾ inches long, contain 6 to 10 florets; 1 or sometimes 2 spikelets per rachis node; glumes glabrous, rigid, gradually tapering from base into short awns; lemmas mostly glabrous, awn-tipped.
Leaves: Glabrous and glaucous, with bluish-green color due to a grayish waxy bloom; leaf blades flat but rolled when dry, 1/8 to ¼ inch wide, 4 to 10 inches long, rather stiff, pointed at the tips, ridged and rough on upper surface; leaves rolled in the bud; ligules very short, membranous, and collar-like; auricles moderately large and clasp the stem.
The law designating Western wheatgrass as the official North Dakota state grass is found in the North Dakota Revised Statutes, Title 54, Chapter 54-02, Section 54-02-10
STATE EMBLEMS, SYMBOLS, AND AWARDS
54-02-10. State grass.
Western wheatgrass, agropyron smithii, is the official grass of the state of North Dakota.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Western Wheatgrass
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Liliopsida - Monocotyledons
Family: Poaceae ⁄ Gramineae - Grass family
Genus: Pascopyrum A. Love - wheatgrass
Species: Pascopyrum smithii (Rydb.) A. Love - western wheatgrass