Invalid Unit Specified
M168 Deschampsia cespitosa - Ligusticum spp. - Muhlenbergia montana Subalpine-High Montane Mesic Meadow Macrogroup

The U.S. National
Vegetation Classification
Type Concept Sentence: This macrogroup includes montane and subalpine mesic meadows from the Rocky Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada and eastern Cascades, and drier grasslands from the southern Rocky Mountains west in the high plateaus and ranges. Vegetation is composed of low (<1 m) open to dense perennial graminoid layer. Characteristic grassland species include Danthonia intermedia, Danthonia parryi, Festuca arizonica, Festuca thurberi, and Muhlenbergia montana in montane and subalpine grasslands in the southern Rocky Mountains. Dominant mesic meadow species include Achillea millefolium, Carex spectabilis, Chamerion angustifolium, Erigeron speciosus, Lupinus latifolius, Senecio hydrophiloides, Senecio serra, Solidago canadensis, Symphyotrichum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, and Zigadenus elegans.
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Common (Translated Scientific) Name: Tufted Hairgrass - Licorice-root species - Mountain Muhly Subalpine-High Montane Mesic Meadow Macrogroup
Colloquial Name: Rocky Mountain-Vancouverian Subalpine-High Montane Mesic Meadow
Hierarchy Level: Macrogroup
Type Concept: This herbaceous macrogroup is widespread in the Rocky Mountains cordillera from New Mexico and Colorado north into Canada, and west to high plateaus and mountains in the Colorado Plateau, higher mountain ranges of Nevada, and the Sierra Nevada into the eastern Cascades. It also occurs in the "island ranges" of central Montana. Vegetation is composed of an open to dense perennial graminoid layer that is generally less than 1 m tall. Characteristic grassland species include Danthonia parryi, Danthonia intermedia, Festuca arizonica, Festuca thurberi, and Muhlenbergia montana in montane and subalpine grasslands in the southern Rocky Mountains. Associated graminoid species include Blepharoneuron tricholepis, Bouteloua gracilis, Festuca idahoensis, Hesperostipa comata, Muhlenbergia filiculmis, and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Forb associates may be diverse and composed of relatively dry forbs such as Castilleja spp., Erigeron simplex, Eriogonum umbellatum, Hymenoxys richardsonii, Penstemon secundiflorus, Potentilla hippiana, and Solidago multiradiata. Mesic meadows are typically composed of a wide diversity of genera and contribute more to overall herbaceous cover than graminoids. Important forbs include Achillea millefolium, Allium schoenoprasum, Angelica spp., Athyrium filix-femina, Camassia quamash, Campanula rotundifolia, Chamerion angustifolium, Erigeron speciosus, Eucephalus spp., Geum macrophyllum, Hackelia spp., Heracleum maximum, Ligusticum spp., Lupinus latifolius, Mertensia spp., Osmorhiza occidentalis, Pteridium aquilinum, Senecio hydrophiloides, Senecio serra, Senecio triangularis, Solidago canadensis, Symphyotrichum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, Valeriana spp., Veratrum viride, and Zigadenus elegans. Forb diversity can be quite high and intergrades with grasses in adjacent grassland stands. At montane elevations, graminoids form a minor component and are usually taxa with relatively broad and soft blades such as Bromus carinatus, Bromus sitchensis, Carex hoodii, Carex microptera, Carex raynoldsii, Deschampsia cespitosa, and Elymus glaucus. Broadleaf deciduous shrubs such as Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda and Symphoricarpos spp. are often present, but do not dominate. Other locally abundant forbs include Hydrophyllum fendleri, Phacelia hastata, Phlox diffusa, Saussurea americana, and Xerophyllum tenax. Burrowing mammals can increase the forb diversity. Stands occupy a wide variety of environments where finely-textured soils, snow deposition, rocky substrates, or windswept dry conditions limit tree establishment. The grasslands occur on flat to rolling plains, in inter-montane parks and on dry sideslopes, especially with south and west aspects. Mesic meadow stands occur in swales that lose their snow cover relatively late in the season. Southern Rocky Mountain stands range from 2200 to 3000 m elevation extending up to 3350 m on warm aspects. Central Rocky Mountain stands typically occur above 2000 m in elevation in the southern extent and above 600 m in the north. These upland communities occur on gentle to moderate-gradient slopes and relatively moist habitats. At montane elevations, this macrogroup occurs within Pinus-Pseudotsuga or mixed conifer-dominated forests. At subalpine elevations, these meadows are found below treeline, usually within Abies lasiocarpa-Picea-dominated forests.
Diagnostic Characteristics: This herbaceous macrogroup typically occurs where finely-textured soils, snow deposition, snow avalanches, or windswept dry conditions limit tree establishment. Vegetation is composed of an open to dense perennial graminoid layer that is generally less than 1 m tall. Characteristic grassland species include Danthonia parryi, Festuca arizonica, and Muhlenbergia montana in montane grasslands and Danthonia intermedia and Festuca thurberi in subalpine grasslands in the southern Rocky Mountains. Dominant mesic meadow species include Achillea millefolium, Carex spectabilis, Chamerion angustifolium, Erigeron speciosus, Lupinus latifolius, Senecio hydrophiloides, Senecio serra, Senecio triangularis, Solidago canadensis, Symphyotrichum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, and Zigadenus elegans, although forb diversity can be quite high. Associated graminoid species include Blepharoneuron tricholepis, Bouteloua gracilis, Festuca idahoensis, Hesperostipa comata, Muhlenbergia filiculmis, and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Forb communities found on talus and scree slopes with subsurface moisture are included here, in particular when they are not sparsely vegetated.
Rationale for Nominal Species or Physiognomic Features: Deschampsia cespitosa, Ligusticum spp., and Muhlenbergia montana are important characteristic taxa in montane grasslands and mesic meadows and were selected as nominal species for this macrogroup. Several other species could also be used, such as Danthonia intermedia, Danthonia parryi, Festuca arizonica, and Festuca thurberi which are typical of montane subalpine grasslands in the southern Rocky Mountains. Achillea millefolium, Carex spectabilis, Festuca viridula, Lupinus latifolius, Senecio triangularis, and Solidago canadensis are common in montane mesic meadows.
Classification Comments: This macrogroup contains three groups: two montane mesic meadow groups that include all montane mesic meadows from the Rocky Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada, and the drier-site montane grasslands from the southern Rocky Mountains. Other montane grasslands from the central Rocky Mountains are included in Central Rocky Mountain Montane-Foothill Grassland & Shrubland Macrogroup (M048). Due to the different environmental setting, few diagnostic species are shared at the macrogroup level. However, Festuca idahoensis and Pseudoroegneria spicata are included in this description, and they also define M048. Also see Achillea millefolium, Danthonia intermedia, Lupinus, Solidago, Chamerion angustifolium, etc. This suggests a certain overlap between M048 and M168.
Similar NVC Types:
M172 Northern Vancouverian Lowland-Montane Grassland & Shrubland, note:
M048 Central Rocky Mountain Montane-Foothill Grassland & Shrubland, note: contains similar montane mesic meadow and drier montane grasslands.
Physiognomy and Structure: This macrogroup includes herbaceous communities dominated by flowering forbs, often tall (but still usually <1 m in height) and/or an open to dense perennial graminoid layer also less than 1 m tall. Cover is generally dense or can be patchy.
Floristics: Vegetation in this herbaceous macrogroup typically occurs where local conditions limit tree establishment. It is composed of an open to dense perennial graminoid layer that is generally less than 1 m tall. Characteristic grassland species include Danthonia parryi, Festuca arizonica, and Muhlenbergia montana in montane grasslands and Danthonia intermedia and Festuca thurberi in subalpine grasslands in the southern Rocky Mountains. Associated graminoid species include Blepharoneuron tricholepis, Bouteloua gracilis, Festuca idahoensis, Hesperostipa comata, Muhlenbergia filiculmis, and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Forb components in grasslands include drier-site species such as Castilleja spp., Erigeron simplex, Erigeron ursinus, Eriogonum umbellatum, Hymenoxys richardsonii, Penstemon secundiflorus, Potentilla hippiana, Solidago multiradiata, and Symphyotrichum foliaceum (= Aster foliaceus) which may be present to codominant. In disturbed stands, species such as Heterotheca villosa may codominate. Tall forb-dominated mesic meadows are typically composed of a wide diversity of genera and contribute more to overall herbaceous cover than graminoids. At montane elevations, important forbs include Achillea millefolium, Allium schoenoprasum, Angelica arguta, Arnica chamissonis, Athyrium filix-femina, Camassia quamash, Campanula rotundifolia, Chamerion angustifolium, Erigeron speciosus, Eucephalus spp., Geum macrophyllum, Hackelia spp., Heracleum maximum, Lupinus latifolius, Mertensia spp., Osmorhiza occidentalis, Pteridium aquilinum, Senecio hydrophiloides, Senecio serra, Solidago canadensis, Symphyotrichum spp., Thalictrum occidentale, and Zigadenus elegans. Forb diversity can be quite high and intergrades with grasses in adjacent grassland stands. At montane elevations, graminoids form a minor component and are usually taxa with relatively broad and soft blades such as Bromus carinatus, Bromus sitchensis, Carex hoodii, Carex microptera, Carex raynoldsii, Deschampsia cespitosa, Elymus glaucus, and Melica spectabilis. Broadleaf deciduous shrubs such as Dasiphora fruticosa ssp. floribunda and Symphoricarpos spp. are occasional but not abundant. At subalpine and low alpine elevations, Angelica spp., Arnica latifolia, Castilleja miniata, Erigeron peregrinus, Erythronium grandiflorum, Ligusticum spp., Senecio triangularis, Valeriana spp., and Veratrum viride are commonly the dominant forbs. Other locally abundant forbs include Hydrophyllum fendleri, Phacelia hastata, Phlox diffusa, Saussurea americana, and Xerophyllum tenax. Burrowing mammals can increase the forb diversity. Early-successional stages may be dominated by Achillea millefolium, Agastache urticifolia, Chamerion angustifolium, Urtica dioica, and other forbs, and low cover of mesic grasses such as Bromus carinatus and Deschampsia cespitosa.
Dynamics: This macrogroup is found in areas that inhibit the establishment of woody species, including areas with finely-textured soils, snow deposition, and/or windswept dry conditions. Mesic meadow stands are typically not affected by fire due to moist conditions and surrounding rocky terrain. Natural processes affecting stands include fluctuating summer snowbanks (drought sequences), snow avalanches, and rockfalls. Burrowing mammals in places will disrupt the soil and vegetation locally.
Environmental Description: This macrogroup includes montane and subalpine mesic meadows from the Rocky Mountains west to the Sierra Nevada and eastern Cascade Range, and drier grasslands from the southern Rocky Mountains west in the high plateaus and ranges. Southern Rocky Mountain stands range from 2200 and 3000 m elevation extending up to 3350 m on warm aspects. Central Rocky Mountain stands typically occur above 2000 m in elevation in the southern extent and above 600 m in the north. Stands occupy a wide variety of environments where finely-textured soils, snow deposition, rocky substrates, or windswept dry conditions limit tree establishment. The grasslands occur on flat to rolling plains, in inter-montane parks and on dry sideslopes, especially with south and west aspects. They can also occur on gentle slopes with ample early-season seepage. Mesic meadow stands occur in swales that lose their snow cover relatively late in the season. Many occurrences are small-patch in spatial character, and are often found in mosaics with woodlands, more dense shrublands, or just below alpine communities. These upland communities occur on gentle to moderate-gradient slopes and relatively moist habitats. At montane elevations, this macrogroup occurs within Pinus-Pseudotsuga or mixed conifer-dominated forests. At subalpine and low alpine elevations, these meadows are found below treeline, usually within Abies lasiocarpa-Picea-dominated forests, or extend into the low alpine.

Climate: Approximately two-thirds of the region's precipitation occurs in just half the year (October to March), with the remaining third occurring in late spring to early summer. Generally, the east slopes of the Cascades east to the northern Rocky Mountains of Montana and Wyoming receive greater than 100 cm of precipitation annually. Soil/substrate/hydrology: Grassland soils are relatively high in organic matter, slightly acidic, and usually well-drained. Mesic meadow soils are typically seasonally moist to saturated during spring and early summer after snowmelt, but will dry out later in the growing season. Some occur on banks of high-gradient ephemeral streams that accumulate deep snowpacks, saturated rocky areas at the base of summer snowbanks, and seasonally saturated rocky areas. At montane elevations, soils are usually clays or silt loams with an A-horizon greater than 10 cm. Some sites may have inclusions of hydric soils in low, depressional areas within this macrogroup. At subalpine elevations, soils are derived from a variety of parent materials, and can be acidic or calcareous. The A-horizon is typically less than 10 cm, and soils are usually rocky or gravelly with good aeration and drainage, but with a well-developed organic layer. A third setting includes talus or scree slopes, or colluvial fields of rocks and small boulders, where subsurface moisture is provided by melting snow throughout much of the growing season. These rocky areas have soils composed of varied parent materials and are usually young and poorly developed.
Geographic Range: This macrogroup is widespread in the Rocky Mountains cordillera from New Mexico and Colorado north into Alberta and British Columbia, and west to high plateaus and mountains in the Colorado Plateau, higher mountain ranges of Nevada, Sierra Nevada into the eastern Cascades. It also occurs in the "island ranges" of central Montana.
Nations: CA, US
States/Provinces: AB, AZ, BC, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
US Forest Service Ecoregions (2007)
Domain Name:
Division Name:
Province Name: Southwest Plateau and Plains Dry Steppe and Shrub Province
Province Code: 315    Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Section Name: Yellowstone Highlands Section
Section Code: M331A     Occurrence Status: Confident or certain
Omernik Ecoregions:
Plot Analysis Summary:
Confidence Level: Moderate
Confidence Level Comments:
Grank: GNR
Greasons:
Concept Lineage:
Predecessors:
Obsolete Names:
Deschampsia caespitosa - Ligusticum spp. - Muhlenbergia montana Subalpine-High Montane Mesic Meadow Macrogroup
Obsolete Parents:
Synonomy: >< Idaho Fescue - Tufted Hairgrass (308) (Shiflet 1994)
= Rocky Mountain Alpine and Subalpine Grassland, Bunchgrass Series - 141.41 (Brown et al. 1979)
> Rocky Mountain Alpine and Subalpine Grassland, Bunchgrass Series, Festuca arizonica Association - 141.412 (Brown et al. 1979)
> Rocky Mountain Alpine and Subalpine Grassland, Bunchgrass Series, Festuca thurberi Association - 141.411 (Brown et al. 1979)
> Rocky Mountain Alpine and Subalpine Grassland, Bunchgrass Series, Mixed Grass-Forb Association - 141.413 (Brown et al. 1979)
= Rocky Mountain Montane Grassland, Mixed Meadow Series - 142.41 (Brown et al. 1979)
> Rocky Mountain Montane Grassland, Mixed Meadow Series, Mixed Forb-Grass Association - 142.411 (Brown et al. 1979)
>< Tall Forb (409) (Shiflet 1994)
>< Tufted Hairgrass - Sedge (313) (Shiflet 1994) [Forb-rich portions of this SRM type overlap with this group.]
Concept Author(s): K.A. Schulz, in Faber-Langendoen et al. (2014)
Author of Description: K.A. Schulz and M. Jennings
Acknowledgements: We have incorporated significant descriptive information previously compiled by M.E. Hall, M.S. Reid and T. Luna.
Version Date: 15Oct2014
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