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Current and Potential Utility of Broadleaf Herbs for Sagebrush Communities Scott Walker and Nancy Shaw Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Ephraim, UT and USDA-FS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Boise, ID. The Great Basin (From Cronquist, A., et al 1972) The Great Basin

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Current and potential utility of broadleaf herbs for sagebrush communities l.jpg

Current and Potential Utility of Broadleaf Herbs for Sagebrush Communities

Scott Walker and Nancy Shaw

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Ephraim, UT and

USDA-FS Rocky Mountain Research Station, Boise, ID.

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The Great Basin Sagebrush Communities

(From Cronquist, A., et al 1972)

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The Great Basin Sagebrush Communities

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Impacts – Principal Sagebrush Communities

Livestock Grazing

Weed Invasion

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Cheatgrass Fire Cycle Sagebrush Communities

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Restoration Practicality Sagebrush Communities

  • Reduction of weedy competition

  • Preparation of suitable seedbeds

  • Restoration of diverse communities

  • Planting site-adapted species

  • Recovery of residual native species

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Increased Diversity of Plant Communities Sagebrush Communities

* Broader range of organisms.

* Cover and soil stabilization.

* Forage availability extended.

* Improve esthetics.

*Higher quality forage.

* Supplies critical nutrients and succulence.

*Fruits, seeds, and leaves of forbs are frequently a principal food for upland game birds

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Grasses Sagebrush Communities



Availability & Utility of Principal Native Species

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Status of Broadleaf Forbs for Restoration Sagebrush Communities

  • Large number of plant associations

  • Moderate number of species present

  • Few species occupy broad range of sites

  • Individual taxa consist of diverse ecotypes

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In the Management of Any Land Type It Is Important to Recognize All Sites Support a Particular Array of Species.

  • All plant communities have evolved to support a particular group of compatible species.

  • These species provide the most complete and effective group of plants for the particular landscape, climate, and exist over time.

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Native forbs offer unique challenges in seed collecting, handling and seeding

  • Usually hand collected

  • Wildland seed production can be highly erratic

  • Cost and availability are unpredictable

  • Seed handling guidelines have not been developed

  • Seeding requirements and cultural practices have not been developed

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Western Yarrow handling and seeding

Louisiana sage

Pacific aster

Blueleaf aster

Cicer milkvetch

Arrowleaf balsomroot



Utah sweetvetch

One flower helianthella

Cow Parsnip


Lewis flax




Yellow sweetclover Sainfoin



Small burnet

Butterweed groundsel

Canada goldenrod



Showy goldeneye

Principal Broadleaf Forbs Recommended For Seeding Sage and Mt. Brush Communities.

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Most Commonly Seeded Forbs handling and seeding

Pounds purchased in 2000*


*BLM Purchases in 2000

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Other Seed Purchased handling and seeding

Pounds purchased in 2000*


*BLM Purchases in 2000

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Forb species were listed as having potential for rangeland restoration.

Of the 76 forbs species listed,

63 were natives

13 were introduced.

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Equipment restoration.

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Seed Bed Preparation restoration.

Soil disturbance

Seed coverage

Safe sites for establishment

Micro sites for increasing moisture retention

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Seeding Requirements restoration.

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Alfalfa restoration.(Medicago sativa)

Dry land types are hybrids between the rhizomatous M. falcata (yellow flower) and the deep rooted M. sativa (purple flower).

Dry land types adapted to the great basin at >10” (persists best at 12 +) precipitation.

Fruit: legume

Germination: Very little dormancy. Will germinate with fall moisture and is susceptible to winter kill.

Seed as dormant seeding LATE fall or early spring.

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Small Burnet: restoration.(Sanguisorba minor)

Very palatable semi-evergreen, nitrogen fixer, highly nutritious.

Cultivar: Delar.

Establishes well when seed drilled (at ¼ to ¾ in.), or aerial applied and covered.

Establishes well at 12” precipitation does not withstand heavy grazing at dryer sites.

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Utah Sweetvetch: restoration.(Hedysarum boreal)

Palatable legume, deep rooted, occurring in sagebrush, pinyon/juniper, and oakbrush types.

Cultivar: Timp.

Seed: Has a lomented pod that disarticulates at ripening.

34,000 seeds per pound.

Fall seed, some dormancy requiring 1 month stratification. Seed at ½ in., 2 lbs per acre.

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Cicer Milkvetch: restoration.(Astragalus cicer)

Adapted to upper sagebrush, pinyon/juniper, and oakbrush (>14”).

Good forage and seed producer. Bird and small mammals utilize the seed.

Released varieties: Lutana, Monarch.

Sainfoin:(Onobrychis viciafolia)

Non-bloating legume, adapted to >12 inches precipitation.

Highly palatable and nutritious, is preferred by deer, elk, and sage grouse.Seed: 18,000 seeds per lb. Seed at 2 to 5 lbs per acre in mix.

Released varieties: Eski, Remont.

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Western Yarrow restoration.(Achillia millifolium)

Cultivar: Variety from Eagle Id. Will be released soon

Wide distribution

Used by hens and chicks, harbors insects.

Very small seed- 4 million per pound.

Surface seed in the Fall, 0.25 to 1 lb per acre.

Establishes readily.

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Pacific Aster: restoration.(Aster chilensis)

Asters as a group are an important component to the native communities.

Consist of a broad array of species.

Small seeded 2.5 million seeds per pound.

Requires 2-4 week stratification

Balsamroot:(Balsamoriza spp.)

Wide spread in Intermountain area.

Early spring green up, good wildlife forage.

Large seeds, 55,000 per pound.

Slow to establish, but very persistent.

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Showy Goldeneye: restoration.(Viguiera multifora, V. nevadensis.)

V. multiflora- broadly adapted to many vegetative types. When purchasing seed be sure of the source. Ranges from Sage, p/j to sub alpine.

V. nevadensis- occurs in drier sites in the Great Basin.

Small seeded 1 million per pound. Does well on surface, can be drilled.

Good seed producer with strong seedlings.

Early spring green up.

Readily sought out by wildlife as a herbaceous forage, and seed is utilized by birds.

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Hawksbeard: restoration.(Crepis spp.)Fleabane:(Erigeron spp.)Salsify:(Tragopogon spp.)

Seed: Generally small seeded, but do establish well on disturbed sites.

Little information on seed and seeding requirements.

No current releases

The importance of these species to sage grouse and other wildlife is becoming more understood.

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Forbs restoration.

Broadleaf Forbs

Family Genus Common name .

Apiaceae Lomatium Desert parsley

Linaceae Linum Flax

Malvaceae Sphaeralcea Globemallow

Polygonaceae Eriogonum Desert Buckwheat

Scrophulariaceae Penstemon Penstemon

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Forb Releases restoration.

Species Origin Release Class


Eriogonum niveum SD Umatilla Cultivar

E. umbellatum CA Sierra Cultivar

Linum perenne SD Appar Cultivar (escaped?)

Lomatium spp. --- ----------- ----------

Penstemon eatonii UTRichfield Selected

P. palmeri UTCedar Cultivar

P.strictus NM Bandera Cultivar

P.venustus ID Clearwater Selected

Sphaeralcea coccinea ID ARS-2936 Germplasm

S. munroana UT ARS-2892 Selected

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Seed Quality Testing restoration.

Species Germination Rule Viability Test

Eriogonum X

Linum X

L. perenne X


Penstemon XX

P. eatonii X

P. palmeri X

P.strictus X


Sphaeralcea X

S. coccinea

S. munroana

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Family Linaceae restoration.Linum perenne var. ’Appar’Perennial Blue Flax

  • Widely adapted

  • Produced in seed fields

  • Easily seeded

  • Establishes in mixtures

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Linum lewisii restoration.Lewis flax, Wild blue flax

  • Widely distributed

  • Considerable intraspecific


  • Great Basin

    cultivar being developed

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Family: Polygonaceae restoration.Eriogonum spp. , Wild buckwheat

E. heracleoides

Wyeth buckwheat

E. ovalifolium

Oval-leaf buckwheat

E. niveum

Snow buckwheat

E. umbellatum

Sulfurflower buckwheat

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Eriogonum restoration.: Seed

Inflorescence: Umbel

Fruit: 3-angled achene

Seeds/pound: 120,000 (E. umbellatum)

600,000 (E. niveum)

Harvest: Summer - Fall

Cleaning: Screen, chop, screen

Seed quality: Viability test available.

Germination: Species and ecotypic variation occur.

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Eriogonum restoration.: Seeding

Time: Fall.

Method: Drill (shallow), broadcast.

Germination: Prechilling usually


Seedlings/stand: Pioneering species.

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‘Umatilla’ Snow Buckwheat restoration.Eriogonum niveum

Origin: Umatilla Co., Oregon

Area of use: Interior Pacific Northwest.

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Family Apiaceae restoration.Lomatium spp. , Biscuitroot, Wild parsley

  • 70 species, nearly all

    in Western U.S.

  • Lower elevation sagebrush to


  • Early spring growth

  • Plants usually scattered

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Lomatium restoration. spp.: Seeds and Seeding

  • Seed supply unreliable

  • Hand harvested

  • Fruits flat, winged, easily

  • cleaned and seeded

  • Seedlings vigorous

  • No cultivars, germination

  • test or viability procedure

L. triternatum

Nine-leaved biscuitroot

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Family Malvaceae restoration.Sphaeralcea spp., Globemallow

  • 25 species in the West, most common

    in the Southwest

  • 8-12 inch precipitation zone

  • Establishes during wet years,

    persists in seedbank

  • Several ploidy levels occur

  • One of the few forbs seeded in

    salt desert shrublands

S. munroana

Munro globemallow

S. grossulariifolia

Gooseberryleaf globemallow

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Sphaeralcea restoration.spp.: Seeds and Seeding

  • Flowering indeterminate

  • Seed collected by hand

  • 500,000 seeds per pound

  • Drill seed or broadcast and cover

  • Seeds require scarification

    and prechilling

  • Germplasm releases:

    • ARS-2936 S.coccinea

    • ARS-2892 S. munroana

  • No germination or viability test

S. munroana

Munro globemallow

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Family Scrophulariaceae restoration.Penstemon spp., Penstemon

P. speciosus

P. deustus

P. peckii

P. fruticosus

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Penstemon restoration.: Seed

  • Harvested from native stands or seed fields

  • Seed small (100,000 to 600,000 per pound)

  • Seed easily cleaned and handled

  • Longevity of seed in dry storage: 4 to 6 years

  • Field culture and seed production studied

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Penstemon restoration.: Seeding

  • Fall seeding -prechilling often


  • Drill (shallow) or broadcast

    and cover

  • Can be seeded with other

    small seeded forbs and shrubs

  • Matures fairly rapidly

  • Germination rule and TZ

    procedures available.

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Penstemon: Releases restoration.

Scientific Common Release Release

name name Origin name type .

P. eatonii Firecracker UTRichfield Selected

P. palmeri PalmerUT Cedar Cultivar

P.strictus Rocky Mt. NM Bandera Cultivar

P.venustus Alpine ID Clearwater Selected

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The Pre-variety Germplasm Release Program restoration.A “Fast Track” Alternative Release Procedure

Certification type:


Verified for geographic origin. No comparisons made with other germplasms of the species.

Selected Class

Germplasm compared on a common site with other germplasms.

Tested Class

Progeny tested to ensure that observed traits are heritable and stable.


Tested material for which there is considerable market demand.

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Research Requirements restoration.

  • Plant ecology

    • Ecotypic variability and distribution

  • Plant biology

    • Seed characteristics, germination requirements

    • Seedbed ecology and establishment

  • Field culture and seed


  • Forb genetics

  • Revegetation genetics

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Candidate Species restoration.Identification and ranking of important species

  • Field surveys

  • Distribution

  • Wildlife habitat values

  • Summary list

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Species Proposed for Development restoration.

Astragalus convallarius

A. lentiginosus

Crepis acuminata

Erigeron pumilus

Eriogonum corymbosum

E. ovalifolium

Hedysarum borealis utahensis

Lomatium nuttallii

Lupinus argenteus

Penstemon attenuatus

P. deustus

P. speciosus

Sphaeralcea coccinea

Vicia americana

Viguiera multiflora nevadensis