This system includes cliffs and outcrops throughout the Western Great Plains. Substrate can range from sandstone and limestone, which can often form bands in the examples of this system. Vegetation is restricted to shelves, cracks and crevices in the rock. This system differs from Great Plains Badlands in that often the soil is slightly developed and less erodible, and some grass and shrub species can occur with a cover of more than 10 percent. Common species in this system include short shrubs such as three leaf sumac (Rhus trilobata) and sagebrush (Artemisia spp.), and mixed grass species such as sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) and prairie sandreed (Calamovilfa longifolia). Drought and wind erosion are the most common natural dynamics affecting this system. This system is embedded within the mixed grass and sand prairie regions of eastern Montana and the fescue grasslands of the northwestern Great Plains region. Climate is typical of mid continental regions with long severe winters and warm summers. Precipitation ranges from 300 to 650 millimeters (12 to 26 inches) with two-thirds coming during the summer and most of the other third in the spring. The growing season is on average 115 days, although the growing season ranges from 100 days on the Canadian border to 130 days on the Wyoming border. Typical land use is grazing. This system can occur where the land lies well above its local base level or below, and is created by several factors, including elevation, wind, rainfall, carving action of streams, erosion and parent material.
Vegetation is restricted to shelves, cracks and crevices in the rock. Vegetation is typically a mixture of shrub and herbaceous species. Common shrubs include three leaf sumac, greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), Gardner’s saltbush (Atriplex gardneri), big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), silver sagebrush (Artemisia cana), rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus species) and saltbush (Atriplex species). In the northwestern Great Plains region of Montana, it can include horizontal juniper (Juniperus horizontalis), common juniper (Juniperus communis), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), and shrubby cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa).
Forbs adapted to sandy soils and sandstone and limestone substrates inhabit this system. Common species include buckwheat (Eriogonumspecies), threadleaf snakeweed (Gutierrezia sarothrae), Hooker’s sandwort (Arenaria hookeri), bud sagebrush (Picrothamnus desertorum), curlycup gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa), bladderpod (Lesquerella species), twinpod (Physariaspecies), douglasia (Douglasia montana), rock evening primrose (Oenothera cespitosa), four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) and penstemon (Penstemon species). In Montana, graminoid cover is typically sparse. Species include sideoats grama, blue grama, prairie sandreed, western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii), bluebunch wheatgrass (Pseudoroegneria spicata), and Indian ricegrass (Achnatherum hymenoides).
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