I’m back from Botany BC and the subsequent trip to southeast Washington state. I wish I could report that all went well, but a post-Botany BC bout of illness (that left more than half of the attendees sick) hit me as well. I didn’t spend nearly as much time photographing and exploring as I had planned, needless to say.
That said, I did manage to find a number of uncommon plants along the way. Today’s plant, however, isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s likely one of the most ubiquitous plants in temperate areas of the world: cheatgrass or drooping brome. Native to southern Europe and southwestern Asia, the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD) lists Bromus tectorum has having invaded “most of Europe, southern Russia, western and central Asia, Japan, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the United States.”. The Germplasm Resources Information Network entry adds a few more areas to the above list, including southern South America, India and Pakistan. In the second photograph, Bromus tectorum covers the right and foreground hillsides, and occurs in patches on the left hillside. In the third photograph, it forms most of the groundcover between the sagebrushes. Why is it such a successful invader? The GISD notes: “It usually thrives in disturbed areas preventing natives from returning to the area. Disturbance such as overgrazing, cultivation, and frequent fires encourage invasion. Once established the natives cannot compete and the whole ecosystem is altered.”.
I chose to feature Bromus tectorum today for a couple reasons. Most important of these is that it is a species named and described by Carl Linnaeus in Species Plantarum. As of today, it’s been 300 years since the birth of Linnaeus, “the father of modern taxonomy”. The New York Times has a write-up: “The 300th Birthday of the Man Who Organized All of Nature”. Happy Birthday, Carl!
My other reason for featuring this weedy invasive is a bit of an ironic one. Yesterday was The International Day for Biological Diversity (did you know? hear about it on the news at all?) and Bromus tectorum growing in swathes is symbolic of the loss of biodiversity in many dryland areas.
A final note to end this ramble: these photographs were taken in the Saddle Mountain area of the Hanford Reach National Monument. Wikipedia has a summary of the Hanford Site (I didn’t photograph any radioactive tumbleweed, by the way).