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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Ice Grass - Phippsia algida

Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S2S3
(see State Rank Reason below)
State Threat Score: No Known Threats
CCVI: Extremely Vulnerable
C-value: 10

Agency Status


External Links

State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Rare in Montana, where it has been documented from only a few sites on the Beartooth Plateau. Additional surveys of suitable habitat and revisits of documented occurrences are needed to more accurately assess the species' conservation status.
General Description
Ice Grass is a glabrous perennial with fibrous roots and densely tufted stems that are up to 7 cm high. The narrow leaves have a boat-shaped tip. The 1-flowered spikelets are borne in a narrow, terminal inflorescence that is ca. 1/3 the length of the stem. Each spikelet has 2 small glumes. The thin, 3-nerved lemma is ca. 1.5 mm long and is blunt with a short point. The palea is slightly smaller and has a shallowly-toothed margin.

Flowering and fruiting in August.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Members of the genus Poa have boat-shaped leaf tips, but have many-flowered spikelets. Species of Agrostis have 1-flowered spikelets, but the glumes are longer than the lemma. A hand lens will be required to inspect this plant.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Circumpolar; south to BC, AB and QC, south in the Rocky Mountains through MT, WY and CO (Kartesz in prep. 2012).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 13

(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)

Wet, gravelly soil of seeps and along streams in the alpine zone.
Predicted Suitable Habitat Model

This species has a Predicted Suitable Habitat Model available.

To learn how these Models were created see

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Commonly Associated with these Ecological Systems
    Alpine Systems

Threats or Limiting Factors
Threat impact not assigned because threats are not known (MTNHP Threat Assessment 2021).

  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
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    • Clark, T.W., H.A. Harvey, R.D. Dorn, D.L. Genter, and C. Groves (eds). 1989. Rare, sensitive, and threatened species of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Montana Natural Heritage Program, The Nature Conservancy, and Mountain West Environmental Services. 153 p.
    • Fertig, W. and M. Bynum. 1994. Biological report on the proposed Twin Lakes Research Natural Area. Unpublished report to the Shoshone National Forest. Wyoming Natural Diversity Database, Laramie, Wyoming. 33 pp. plus appendices.
    • Grulke, N. E. and L. C. Bliss. 1983. A note on winter seed rain in the High Arctic. Arctic and Alpine Research 15(2):261-265.
    • Grulke, N. E. and L. C. Bliss. 1988. Comparative life history characteristics of two high Arctic grasses, Northwest Territories. Ecology 69(2):484-496.
    • Grulke, N.E. 1995. Distribution of Phippsia algida and autosuccession in the polar semidesert, Canadian High Arctic. Arctic and Alpine Research 27(2):172-179.
    • Lesica, P. 1993. Vegetation and flora of the Line Creek Plateau area, Carbon County, Montana. Unpublished report to USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena, Montana. 30 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
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Citation for data on this website:
Ice Grass — Phippsia algida.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from