The Enemy: Desert saltgrass (Distichlis spicata)

Strategy: This native is a low-growing perennial grass found along roadsides, railroad tracks and ditch banks. Leaves are rough and flat. It can grow to 12 inches tall, but usually is found about 6 inches tall. It spreads by rhizomes, which is why it colonizes densely. Leaves are alternate but come up the stem in two rows. It is one of the few grass species that have separate male and female plants. The plant forms 1-inch-long spikelets of seeds at the end of the stems.

Attack: As this plant forms dense colonies, it is effective at growing through asphalt, sidewalks and under other structures. This causes repetitive maintenance and repair, increasing costs in managing properties, especially roadsides. Once established, it can creep into farm crops and pastures, furthermore it can also be found in the flood plains and marshes in the desert. It is not palatable by livestock as it has a rough texture.

Defense: This is one species of this plant that is difficult to control. As it is a perennial with rhizomes, mechanical control will mainly help spread it. Herbicides are somewhat effective. In most cases, it will grow right through bareground treatment applications. Roundup or Arsenal mixed with ammonium sulfate and additional adjuvants may yield 50 percent control. Once the plants revive, a repeat application will be necessary. It will many years to completely remove it from a site. As this is a native, I don’t recommend removing it as it will keep undesirable plants from invading. If you are not sure about the plant, call your local weed professional for proper identification.

To learn more, call Bonneville County Weed Superintendent Jeffrey Pettingill at 208-529-1397 or email

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