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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Develop Improved Plant Genetic Resources to Enhance Pasture and Rangeland Productivity in the Semiarid Regions of the Western U.S.

Location: Forage and Range Research

Title: A nomenclatural guide and simplified key to the squirreltail taxa

Author
item Jones, Thomas

Submitted to: Native Plant Journal
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: November 15, 2013
Publication Date: May 1, 2014
Citation: Jones, T.A. 2014. A nomenclatural guide and simplified key to the squirreltail taxa. Native Plant Journal. 15:51-55.

Interpretive Summary: The squirreltails are a taxonomically complex group of native grasses that are important on rangelands of the northwestern U.S. I simplified and updated a key published in 1963 to identify the species and subspecies of squirreltail. This key is based on the number of glumes per node and the cleavage displayed by those glumes. With the application of a few rules and this simplified key, taxonomic identification is straightforward. This allows the restoration practitioner to correctly identify the squirreltail taxon present at the restoration site and to match it with available plant material of the same taxon if desired.

Technical Abstract: Elymus elymoides (Raf.) Swezey (bottlebrush squirreltail) and E. multisetus (J.G. Smith) Burtt Davy (big squirreltail) are collectively known as the squirreltails. These species are taxonomically complex grasses that occupy rangelands of the northwestern U.S., and they represent an excellent example of ecotypic variation. Bottlebrush squirreltail, which is the more widespread of the two species, displays multiple subspecies and even genetically distinguishable races. A dichotomous key is presented to identify the correct squirreltail taxon that is based on the number of glumes per node and the cleavage displayed by those glumes. Commercially available plant materials of squirreltail have been keyed and are listed by their taxon. This key was developed from a previous key published in 1963 that was based on a now-obsolete systematic treatment. The new key better reflects phylogenetic relationships, as it is based on Dewey's genomic system of classification rather than on morphological characters.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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