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Montana Field Guides

Cusick's Bluegrass - Poa cusickii
Other Names:  Poa epilis

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4

Agency Status
MNPS Threat Rank:
C-value: 4

External Links

General Description
Cespitose (sometimes densely so) perennials, infrequently short rhizomatous or stoloniferous. Culms 10-60(-70) cm tall, terete or weakly compressed, nodes terete and exserted above subtending sheath. (Leaf sheaths, ligules, and blades vary between basal, innovation, and cauline leaves.) Cauline leaves: sheaths closed lower 1/4-3/4; collars smooth or scabrous; ligules 1-3(-6) mm long; blades 0.5-3 mm wide, usually thin and withering, lower surface smooth of scabrous, uppermost ("flag") blade 0.5-6 cm long. Panicles 2-10(-12) cm, usually erect, contracted or loosely contracted; branches 1-3 per node, 0.5-4(-5) cm, smooth or scabrous, spikelets 1-15 per branch. Spikelets (3-)4-10 mm, laterally compressed; florets 2-6. Glumes lanceolate, distinctly keeled; lower glumes 3-veined, distinctly shorter than lowest lemmas; lemmas (3-)4-7 mm, distinctly keeled, smooth to densely scabrous, apices acute; palea keels scabrous, intercostal regions glabrous; anthers vestigal (0.1-0.2 mm) and aborting late in development (adapted from: Soreng, 2007, in Flora N. America, Vol. 24).

Lavin (2012) includes this species in synonymy of Poa fendleriana, in contrast to some other authors (e.g., Soreng, op. cit.; Shaw, 2008, Grasses of Colorado). According to Kartesz (in prep. 2012), we have subspecies cusickii, epilis, and pallida.

Species Range
Montana Range


Range Comments
YK to MB and ND south to CA and CO (Kartesz in prep. 2012).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 286

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Meadows in sagebrush scrub to rocky alpine slopes (Soreng, 2007, in Flora of N. America, Vol. 24).

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Ament, R.J. 1995. Pioneer Plant Communities Five Years After the 1988 Yellowstone Fires. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 216 p.
    • Hawkins, P.H. 1903. The alpine flora of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis, Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 24 pp.
    • Husby, P.O. 1982. Effects of grazing on vegetation in the Artemisia tridentata-Festuca idahoensis habitat type. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 76 p.
    • Joslin, G.J. 1975. Behavior and environmental selection by Elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) during surrmer and fall in the First and Second Yellow Mule drainages, Madison County, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University, Bozeman. 65 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Matlock-Cooley, S.J. 1993. Interaction between Deermice, Antelope Bitterbrush, and cattle in southwest Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University 84 p.
    • Pallister, G.L. 1974. The seasonal distribution and range use of bighorn sheep in the Beartooth Mountains, with special reference to the West Rosebud and Stillwater herds. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 67 p.
    • Saunders, J.K., Jr. 1954. A two-year investigation of the food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 22 p.
    • Seipel, T.F. 2006. Plant species diversity in the sagebrush steppe of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 87 p.
    • Williams, K.L. 2012. Classification of the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, forests and alpine vegetation associations of the Custer National Forest portion of the Beartooth Mountains in southcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 376 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Cusick's Bluegrass — Poa cusickii.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from