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Puccinellia parishii
(Parish's alkali grass)

[taxon report][distribution map][all photos][line drawing]



Family: Poaceae

Scientific Name: Puccinellia parishii A.S. Hitchcock

Synonyms: None

Vernacular Name: Parish's alkali grass

R-E-D Code: 1-2-1

Description: Dwarf annual with 1 to many stems; leaf blades about 1 mm broad, flat or involute, short; culms mostly 5-15 cm tall; panicle narrow, few-flowered, the branches erect-appressed; spikelets 4-6 mm long; glumes shorter than the first floret, broad, strongly nerved, scarious-margined; florets 4-6 per spikelet, disarticulating above the glumes; lemmas about 2 mm long, obtuse to truncate, scarious and somewhat erose at the tip, pubescent on the mid and lateral nerves nearly to the apex, and on the intermediate nerves about half way. Flowers May to June.

Similar Species: Puccinellia distans and P. airoides can grow in the same habitat, but they are perennials, have wider leaves, and lack pubescence on the lemma nerves. Poa annua is a small annual with pubescence on the lemma nerves, but the leaves are wider and boat-shaped at their tips.


Distribution: New Mexico, Catron, Cibola, Grant, Hidalgo, McKinley, Sandoval, and San Juan counties; California, Arizona, and Colorado.

Habitat: Alkaline springs, seeps, and seasonally wet areas that occur at the heads of drainages or on gentle slopes at 800-2,200 m (2,600-7,200 ft) range-wide. The species requires continuously damp soils during its late winter to spring growing period. It frequently grows with Distichlis stricta (salt grass), Sporobolus airoides (alkali sacaton), Carex spp. (sedges), Scirpus spp. (bulrushes), Juncus spp. (rushes), Eleocharis spp. (spike rushes), and Anemopsis californica (yerba mansa).

Remarks: This species was proposed for Federal listing as endangered on March 28, 1994 (59 FR 14378), but the proposal was withdrawn on September 25, 1998 (63 FR 51329) due to the discovery of additional populations and a re-evaluation of threats to the species. It is known from 30 sites range-wide, 17 in New Mexico.

Conservation Considerations: Puccinellia parishii requires wet alkaline soils; activities that divert or dry up springs or seeps will destroy its habitat. It can persist at springs that have been severely impacted by livestock grazing and trampling.

Important Literature (*Illustration):

Hitchcock, A.S. 1928. New species of grasses from the United States. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 41:157-164.

*Hitchcock, A.S. and A. Chase. 1951. Manual of the grasses of the United States, 2nd edition. U.S. Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication No. 200.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1998. Endangered and threatened wildlife and plants; withdrawal of proposed rule to list the plant Puccinellia parishii (Parish's alkali grass) as endangered. Federal Register 63:51329-51332.

Information Compiled By: Charlie McDonald, 1999

Agency Status:
Taxon USFWS State of NM USFS BLM Navajo Nation Natural Heritage NM Global Rank
Puccinellia parishiiSoCESenSenGp 4S1G2


Photo credits in header Peniocereus greggii var. greggii © T. Todsen,
Lepidospartum burgessii © M. Howard, Argemone pleiacantha ssp. pinnatisecta © R. Sivinski
©2005 New Mexico Rare Plant Technical Council