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Vegetation

Intermountain Grassland

The intermountain grasslands are the transition zone between prairie grasslands and montane forests, sometimes referred to as foothill grasslands. These large, open valleys support plant communities dominated by grasses. A variety of shrubs is found here, but shrubs are not the dominant plant species. Large rivers surrounded by lush riparian plant communities flow through the larger valleys.

Intermountain Grassland Trees & Shrubs

Limber Pine

Limber Pine Limber Pine

Limber Pine (Pinus flexilis) is a cone bearing tree that can be identified by its 5 needle clusters. This is an important wildlife plant as birds and small mammals feed on the seeds. They in turn help distribute the seeds. The young limbs of these trees are very flexible and can even be tied into knots.

Fringed Sagewort

Fringed Sagewort Fringed Sagewort

Fringed Sagewort (Artemisia frigida) is a strongly aromatic member of the sage family. This mat-forming plant grows stems from a woody root; it grows 4" to 16" tall. It is found in dry, open sites from the plains to the subalpine.

Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa Pine

Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa), the state tree of Montana, separates the grasslands from the Douglas-fir forests. Shrubs that grow with ponderosa are snowberry, Oregon grape, and chokecherry.

Douglas-fir

Douglas-fir

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) trees are typically found in the moist soils on north facing slopes of the mountains. These trees grow at moderate elevations up to 5,500' and continue up to 7,500' in the southern mountains. The under-story species usually growing among these trees are ninebark, snowberry, and kinnikinnick.

Big Sagebrush

Big Sagebrush Big Sagebrush

Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) forms a "canopy" that benefits many wildlife species. The leaves of the big sagebrush are highly nutritious in the winter and eaten by a variety of wildlife including antelope, mule deer, bighorn sheep, elk, sage grouse, and pygmy rabbits. These plants have an extensive taproot to seek out soil moisture. They help collect snow which adds moisture to the soil.

Skunkbush Sumac

Skunkbush Sumac Skunkbush Sumac

Skunkbush Sumac (Rhus trilobata) is a deciduous low growing plant often found on dry rocky slopes. These plants produce red berries and grow into a thickly branched plant that provides excellent shelter for small mammals and birds.

Intermountain Grassland Forbs

Silky Lupine

Silky Lupine

Silky Lupine (Lupinus sericeus) grows on open slopes in the foothills up to the alpine zone. Plants grow one to two feet tall and typically have blue flowers. The seedpods are called legumes. Legume plants have nitrogen-fixing bacteria associated with their roots. This bacteria converts nitrogen into a form plants can use.

Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot Arrowleaf Balsamroot

Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagitatta) is a member of the sunflower family and found from the foothills to the subalpine zone. The yellow flower of this plant is actually a cluster of many small flowers. This type of flower is called composite.

Blanket Flower

Blanket Flower

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia arisata) is a perennial plant with yellow flowers. It grows on dry sites in the grasslands and forested foothills.

Intermountain Grassland Grasses

Rough Fescue

Rough Fescue

Rough Fescue (Festuca scabrella) is most widespread and abundant in northwest Montana occurring on both sides of the Continental Divide. This grass declines in abundance as you move south through the state; its farthest eastern occurrence is at the base of the Judith Mountains near Lewistown.

Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum) is the most widely spread major forage grass in Montana. It is the dominant grass on all upland sites within the 10" to 14" precipitation zone. It is also the dominant grass on sites with sandy soils.

Prairie Junegrass

Prairie Junegrass

Prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha) is a densly tufted perennial grass that is found in dry, well-drained open sites from the plains to subalpine. It is a good grass for grazing ungulates.

Idaho Fescue

Idaho Fescue

Idaho Fescue (Festuca idahoensis) occurs throughout this area wherever threre is 15" to 19" of precipitation.

Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread (Hesperostipa comata) is a perennial cool season bunchgrass that grows in moist, coarse and medium textured soils. It reaches heights of 1' to 3'. Seeds are contained on hair-like spikes that fall to the ground.