Downy brome

Encyclopedia Article

Downy brome              Bromus tectorum L.

Family:   Poaceae (Grass family)                                               
Life cycle:   Annual (winter)
Native status:  Introduced
Habitat:  pastures, no-till fields, small grains, rangelan       

General description:  Leaves are up to 10 inches long, plants reach height of 2 feet.  Both surfaces of leaves and sheaths are covered with short, soft, dense hairs.  Young leaves are twisted.  Membranous ligule.  Fused leaf sheath.  Seedhead is a dropping, soft (often purplish) panicle.  Spikelets have long awns (up to 0.7 inch long).  Flowers in April to May.

Key ID traits:  Dense, soft hairs on leaves and stems.  Sheath is fused rather than overlapping.

Similar species:  Cheat or chess (Bromus secalinus) has similar growth habit but leaves and sheaths are smooth or with few hairs.

Miscellaneous:  Native to Mediterranean region.  Frequently found in overgrazed pastures since animals avoid downy brome due to sharp awns that can cause mechanical injury to mouth and digestive tracts.  A serious invasive plant of western rangeland that increases risks of wildfires since it matures in spring and the dead plants are a fire hazard during dry summers.

Patch of downy brome flowering in early spring due to winter annual life cycle.

Downy brome, and other Bromus spp., have fused leaf sheaths whereas other grasses' sheaths overlap.

D. brome produces a drooping panicle, seeds have long, sharp awns that irritate mouths of grazing animals, the damage is known as bromitis.