Scientific Name: Bouteloua dactyloides
Other/Previous Names: Buchloëdactyloides
Taxonomy Group: Vascular Plants
Range: Saskatchewan, Manitoba
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2011
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Buffalograss is a grayish-green, stoloniferous, curly-leaved grass that forms dense matted sods. Male and female plants are strongly dimorphic (physically different). Male plants have slender erect stems 6-12 cm high, bearing 1-3 short spikes about 1 cm long, consisting of two-flowered spikelets. The females plants have very short, often prostrate stems beneath the leaves, bearing tight clusters of one-flowered spikelets that form hard globular burs of 1-5 seeds; these become the dispersal units.
Buffalograss reaches the northernmost limit of its range in southeastern Saskatchewan (near Estevan) and southwestern Manitoba (near Coulter), along the Souris River Valley. South of the border the species extends south to south-central Mexico. In Saskatchewan, the largest population contains about 300 clones covering nearly 200 m2. In Manitoba, where 90% of the Canadian Buffalograss occurs, the single population represents about 4800 clones and covers one hectare.
South of the border, Buffalograss is an abundant and often co-dominant grass of the dry short-grass steppes of the western Great Plains. Its optimal precipitation range is between 300 and 600 mm annually. It is not very tolerant to shade. In Canada, Buffalograss is seemingly dependant on clay or clay-loam substrate; early season moisture with subsequent drying; moderate erosion, or cattle-trampling and grazing; and no competition from other mixed-grass prairie species.
This dioecious and perennial species reproduces sexually by seeds and vegetatively by means of superficial stolons. It begins growth in mid-spring and flowers in summer, setting seed soon thereafter. The heavy toothed burs are more effectively dispersed by ungulates and water than by wind. Only half the seeds germinate the first year, the others requiring one or more years of dormancy. Populations form circular clonal patches of 0.5-3.0 m in diameter.
Major threats to Buffalograss in Canada are the destruction of its habitat for agricultural use, road or dam building, and clay pit-mining or coal strip-mining. Fire-suppression might also be limiting the species.
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
Buffalograss is a low-growing, stoloniferous (bearing runners), curly-leaved, perennial grass forming dense, clonal mats. The species is primarily dioecious: male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are found on different plants. Male plants have slender, erect stems, mostly 6-12 cm high, bearing 1-3, 1-sided spikes that are about 1 cm long. The pistillate plants have short, often prostrate stems beneath the leaves, and bear flower clusters that remain together to form hard, globular “burs” that become the seed dispersal units. Buffalograss is an important drought-tolerant forage and turf grass in the United States.
This grass occurs in limited areas of remnant short-grass prairie in southern Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Threats to this species include coal strip mining, invasive alien plants and overgrowth by woody vegetation and high grass that were once controlled by bison grazing and fire. However, recent survey efforts have increased the known number of populations and it no longer qualifies as a threatened species.
The Species at Risk Act (SARA, Section 37) requires the competent minister to prepare recovery strategies for listed extirpated, endangered or threatened species. Buffalograss was listed as threatened under SARA in June 2003. The Canadian Wildlife Service – Prairie and Northern Region, Environment Canada led the development of this recovery strategy. All responsible jurisdictions reviewed and approved the strategy. The strategy meets SARA requirements in terms of content and process (Sections 39-41). It was developed in cooperation or consultation with:
1) provincial jurisdictions in which the species occurs – Saskatchewan and Manitoba
2) industry stakeholders – Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
This will be the first recovery strategy for buffalograss posted on the Public Registry.
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of the Species at Risk Act, makes the annexed Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act.
Under Canada’s Species at Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”.
COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings in this reporting year (September 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012) from November 21 to 25, 2011 and from April 29 to May 4, 2012. On February 3, 2012, an Emergency Assessment Subcommittee of COSEWIC also assessed the status of the Tri-colored Bat (Perimyotis subflavus), the Little Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), and the Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis). During the current reporting period COSEWIC assessed the status or reviewed the classification of 67 wildlife species.
For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern).
The wildlife species assessment results for the 2011-2012 reporting period include the following:
Special Concern: 15
Data Deficient: 2
Not at Risk: 6
Of the 67 wildlife species examined, COSEWIC reviewed the classification of 49 species that had been previously assessed. The review of classification for 26 of those species resulted in a confirmation of the same status as the previous assessment (see Table 1a).
As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk.
Please submit your comments by
March 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations
October 4, 2013, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations.
Individual Buffalograss plants do not appear to use a dwelling place similar to a nest or den, and therefore do not qualify to have a residence. There would be no additional legal protection not already afforded by protection of the individual and its critical habitat.