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Vegetation

Plains Grassland

Plants of the plains grassland and forest are adapted to dry conditions and extreme temperatures. A variety of shrubs is found here, but not enough to be classified as the dominant plant species. Grasses dominate the landscape, as they are well adapted for an environment where drought and fire are common. Grasses have specialized root systems that allow them to store nutrients that can be used during times of stress. Forests of ponderosa pines can be found growing on sites that receive more than 14" of moisture and along the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers and their tributaries where water loving riparian plant communities grow.

Plains Grassland Trees & Shrubs

Western Snowberry

Western Snowberry

Western Snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis) is a low growing, deciduous, woody plant that is found in moist areas along rivers and streams. It produces white berries that give this plant its name. The flowers are pink. It is an important wildlife plant providing shelter and food to many species.

Rubber Rabbitbrush

Rubber Rabbitbrush

Rubber Rabbitbrush (Ericameria nauseosa) is a low growing plant that reaches heights of 2' to 3' and can be found in dry grasslands up to the montane forest. It produces a flowerhead that contains 5 tiny yellow flowers. Rabbits and ungulates eat the seeds of this plant.

Plains Pricklypear

Plains Pricklypear Plains Pricklypear

Plains Pricklypear (Opuntia polycantha) is found in the dry grasslands from the valley to the montane forest. The flat spiny pads and large flowers make this plant easy to identify. This plant can be an indicator of overgrazed grasslands.

Fringed Sagewort

Prairie 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.

Great Plains Ponderosa Pine

Great Plains Ponderosa Pine

Great Plains Ponderosa Pine (Pinus ponderosa) is the dominant conifer tree of the plains forest. It is a smaller version of the ponderosa pine found west of the Continental Divide as it typically only grows to heights of 35' to 60'.

Green Ash

Green Ash

Green Ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) is a deciduous tree that is found along the riparian zones of Montana's streams and rivers. It flowers in the spring even before leaves appear on the base. This tree is well adapted to areas that frequently flood. Many wildlife species feed on the seeds of this tree.

Plains Grassland Forbs

Prairie Coneflower

Prairie Coneflower

Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) is a common yellow flower of the plains that brightens the grasslands. Insects of the plains depend on flowers like these for nectar.

Dotted Blazing Star

Dotted Blazing Star

Dotted Blazing Star(Liatris punctata) blooms from August thru September. It is well adapted for dry climates as the plant has a long taproot root to seek out soil moisture. The flower is fed on by nectar seeking insects, especially butterflies.

Plains Grassland Grasses

Blue Grama

Blue Grama

Blue Grama (Bouteloua gracilis) A perennial, warm season bunchgrass that is an important component of the short grass prairie. This plant is very nutritious and an important grass for ungulates.

Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Bluebunch Wheatgrass

Bluebunch Wheatgrass (Agropyron spicatum) is the state grass of Montana. It 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. Sandy soils are good places to find this grass.

Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread

Needle & Thread (Hesperostipa comata) is 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.

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem

Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) this warm, season perennial bunchgrass grows in most soil textures and the young plants are eaten by grazing ungulates.