Establishment of Native Semidesert Grasses into Existing Stands of Eragrostis lehmanniana in Southeastern Arizona



The semidesert grassland in southern Arizona has changed from a native grassland to a scattered Prosopis juliflora var. velutina (mesquite) woodland with an understory of African Eragrostis lehmanniana (Lehmann lovegrass) on many sites. To determine native grass restoration potential, seven species were direct seeded into E. lehmanniana stands that were left alive, burned, sprayed with an herbicide and then either left standing, or mowed. Initial native grass establishment was limited in the live standing treatment but was successful for all other treatments when either June or August sowing was followed by consistent summer precipitation and soil water availability. Four species, Bothriochloa barbinodis (cane beardgrass), Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama), Digitaria californica (Arizona cottontop), and Leptochloa dubia (green spangletop) initially established most successfully, while only Muhlenbergia porteri (bush muhly) had consistently limited or no establishment. E. lehmanniana establishment from the seed bank was increased by canopy removal associated with burning. Densities of native grasses one year after successful initial establishment were much lower than that of E. lehmanniana. A possible revegetation strategy would be to spray emergent E. lehmanniana seedlings and surviving plants with an herbicide during the summer rainy season after spring burning. Native grasses could then be established by sowing in early August of that year or June and August of subsequent years until consistent precipitation produces a native grass stand.