No. 2 - Spring, 1996 - BLM, USFS and U.S. Military Issue
featuring Native Grass Ecotypes & Genetic Gels.

Edited and published by Craig Dremann of The Reveg Edge (sm).
P.O. Box 361, Redwood City, Cal. 94064. Phone (650) 325-7333 or e-mail
The URL of this issue is:

If you would like to read the previous and more recent issues about native grasses : Index at


Native Grass Seed Outlook and 1996 Crop Forecast.

Search Out and Preserve!

Native Plant Policy California BLM and How Local is Local?

Report of the Native Grass Genetic Gels, Series II & III.

Uses for Isoenzyme Gels

Native Grass Genetic Gels (image of gel)

Participation in Future Gel Series

Botanic Exploration for Ecotypes

Collection Data Sheet

Top Ten Not Wanted Plants!

Review: Books & Articles of Interest for Ecological Restoration

---Book: The Desert Grassland

---Book: Problem Analysis for the Vegetation Diversity Project
---Article: Vanishing Grasslands

Ecotype Explorers

THE REVEG EDGE(sm) Services


EXPECT EXCELLENT HARVESTS of native grass and other native seeds in BLM , USFS, and U.S. Military management areas in 1996 in: Northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Northern Nevada, Utah and the Dakotas. Take advantage of the extra moisture that fell in these areas to harvest bumper-crops of wild grass and other native seeds!

EXPECT POOR TO MARGINAL crops due to below-normal rainfall in Southern California, (especially the deserts), Southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Montana, Oklahoma, and southern Kansas. Along with the wild native grass seed crops, there will also be a very low yield of dry-land winter wheat in these areas.

KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON GRAZING in drought areas, so native stands are not devastated. Maintaining as much native bunchgrass cover on the land will help avert dust-bowl-like conditions that could develop. Watch for early and record temperatures along the U.S./Mexico borderlands and the U.S/Canadian borderlands in May through October which may exacerbate the lack of rain already stressing the native cover in these areas.

FIRE-REHAB. TEAMS should organize themselves early to discuss rehab. plans and prepare for numerous fires in the drought areas.


IT'S ALWAYS A GOOD YEAR to locate and map your perennial native grass resources, no matter what kind of year it is! If you are out in the field and find a good grass stand, start mapping it into a permanent database. Rather than looking for the 100 native grass stands that may exist in one 7.5 minute quadrangle, it would be more valuable to search, locate and protect 100 relic native grass stands in 100 different quadrangles! That will allow you to have a larger pallette of material available for future collection and study.

AERIAL PHOTOS are one way that I find grass stands quickly, especially if I have the location of a known stand for reference. Once you know what pattern to look for, you can survey huge areas for potential locations and likewise eliminate areas with low potential. That's how Gary Schoolcraft (Susanville BLM), Lynne Hosley (CH2MHill) and I discovered California's largest desert grassland in 1993, Lynne's Prairie, north of Susanville in the Madeline Plain, covering four contiguous beautiful square miles! It is only two miles west of Highway 395, but we would have driven right past it, never taking that side-trip down Broakman Road, never seeing it hidden by the surrounding alfalfa fields!


CALIFORNIA BLM will soon join the USFS Regions 5 & 6 (California, Oregon & Washington) in establishing a policy recommending the use of native plants for revegetation and ecological restoration. Among the next hundred questions that will arise, a few near the top of the list may be:

"What about the genetics?"
"Are there ecotypes?"
"How local is local?"
"How far can we move these natives--collect them from Utah and plant them in California, or keep the seeds within the US Forest Service Ecological Units?"

The US Forest Service Ecological Units map for California may be an excellent starting point for establishing provisional seed transfer zones, but soon you will need some actual scientific methods to test and maintain these ecological units as seed transfer zones. The native grasses are the most likely candidates available for testing your seed transfer zones.

Native grasses are valuable tools to use when studying ecosystem diversity, and genetically they take the place that the fruit fly has for studying animal genetics. Native grasses grow quickly into mature, reproducing plants within 12-24 months and their simple structures can indicate ecotypic differences very clearly when grown in a common-garden.

Commercially reproduced, seeds of native grasses are the cheapest seed you can buy for ecological restoration projects. The ability to spread cheap natives around may ultimately be harmful to the indigenous relic stands. We need to go out and study the genetic architecture of those relics before we start spreading native grass seeds around in quantity.

Study of the native grass relics will help in discovering your indigenous species genetic diversity, and assess, protect and preserve their total genetic diversity. One of the important tools I use to study the native grasses is the Isoenzyme Gel.


BLM California and BLM Oregon as well as USFS and U.S. Military botanists collected samples of about one ounce of native grass seeds for our Isoenzyme gels. Participants for the 1996 Series III gels were:

BLM Bishop, BLM Lakeview, Boardman Bombing Range (Ore.), California State Parks, Cleveland NF, Crater Lake NP, Glacier NP, Lake Tahoe BMU, Lewis & Clark NF, Los Padres NF, Ion Exchange (Iowa), Kootanei NF, Mt. Hood NF, Rogue River NF, San Bernardino NF, Shasta-Trinity NF, Siskiyou NF, Siuslaw NF, TNC Tallahassee, US Navy (Cal), Willamette NF, and Yellowstone NP.

The proteins are extracted from the seeds and the gels processed using esterase. The actual gels are a very thin layer (.001") of solid gelatin on a clear eight-mil. plastic sheet.

*Species identification.
*Provenance identification.
*Species genetic diversity.
*Seed origin certification.
*Assessment of seed purity from commercial seed grow-out.
*Assess the total genetic diversity of a species, so that species diversity can be managed.
*Discover unique populations which may have value for restoration of unusual sites, like mines, serpentine, sandy, or carbonate soils, etc.

The genera that produce the clearest gel patterns are: Agropyron, Elymus, Oryzopsis, Sitanion, and Stipa. The desert species of native grasses are excellent candidates for genetic studies.


Agropyron spicatum from Susanville BLM , 1995 gels.


The Reveg Edge (sm) organizes samples for gel runs once or twice a year, whenever collectors have accumulated at least 70 native grass samples. Contact Craig Dremann (650)325-7333 for the next gel series deadline.

Future participants should mail the following items to P.O. Box 609, Redwood City, CA. 94064:

1.) Send a list of the native grass species you would like to collect for the gels and how many populations you might like to attempt to collect from in one season.

2.) Send a map of the area you might collect from for your gel samples, with your potential collection range (north/south/east/west) circled. A folded BLM or USFS 1:100,000 scale Surface Management Status or Forest map is best.

3.) One ounce of ripe seed is needed for the isoenzyme gels. There are several methods that you can use to tell when native grass seeds are ripe. The "thumbnail test" is where you press your thumbnail into the seeds and see how it yields; the harder the seed is, the riper it is. Another method is to collect seed from plants where the portion of the stem, where the seed is attached, has turned brown, indicating that no more nutrients will reach the seeds.

4.) #11 manila, 28 weight open-end policy envelopes are the recommended seed sample envelopes. They can be special-ordered from most stationary stores. They are a little larger than a regular mailing envelope, except that they open on the end, and you can get in and out of the envelope by just unfolding or folding the end, and they hold about one ounce of cleaned grass seed. Never use plastic! Use these envelopes or some other type of manila envelopes or paper bags to store your seed samples in.

5.) Agreements (Challenge-Cost-Share, P.O., etc.) need to be written, either a state-wide, or by individual Resource Area, Forest or Ranger District, so that I can organize your seed samples and cover the costs of preparing and running the gels.

In three year, I have received 1,228 native grass seed samples from the USFS!
I believe BLM and the U.S. military land managers have as much desire in using natives for ecological restoration and revegetation as the USFS

Once you start looking for native grass ecotypes over a large area within one growing season, you begin to see variations in the populations that may tip you off that unique ecotypes exist and that there may be interesting environmental reasons for their existence. You will find as you survey that unique ecotypes always occur in areas of environmental extremes or at the boundaries between two biomes.

Extremes where unique ecotypes occur are on windswept hills, within five miles of a coastline, on weird soil types (serpentine, carbonates), sandy soils, in areas with known endemism, at the low or high rainfall edge for the species, at high elevations, in cold air pockets, or in isolated valleys.

Boundaries between two biomes could be the point of contact between a grassland and a forest, beach and coastal bluff, woodland and desert, subalpine and alpine, etc.

The Reveg Edge(sm) has developed a protocol for a search-pattern that can examine 5,000 contiguous square miles within a period of 14 field days for native grass ecotypes. This is the largest area that one person can reasonably cover in one season and still get an idea of the genetic diversity of the species of interest.

Useful information for seed collections. This form can be copied and xeroxed onto 8-1/2"x11" Avery #5353 full sheet copier labels, which can then be cut and peeled to put onto your sample envelopes or collection bags:



Address, phone______________________________________________________

Collection date__________Location___________________________________


T./R./S____________________Environ(Circle): wet, vernally wet, dry

100% sun,75% sun, 50% sun/shade, 75% shade, 100% shade. Precip_____"


Calling all Land Managers! Send in your top ten list of Not-Wanted Plants!
Send us a list of plants that have been intentionally planted in your area and have persisted, especially along roadsides. (Not the accidentally introduced weeds). Many of our highway departments, fire rehab. agencies, agricultural universities, and soil conservation offices are still recommending these plants instead of natives for revegetation of wildlands.

Examples from some of the top-ten lists I have received so far are 'Blando' brome, Crested wheatgrass, Fountain grass, Intermediate wheatgrass, Orchard grass, Perennial rye, Red brome, Smooth brome, Tall oatgrass, Yellow clover, and 'Zorro' annual fescue. Sound familiar?

Send in your top ten list and I will publish it in Craig's Juicy Gossip Six,which will be about 'weeds.' Also, if you have an experience planting a non-persistent, non-native, let me know about those species!


BOOK: The Desert Grassland. Edited by Mitchel P. McClaran & Thomas R. Van Devender. 1995. University of Arizona Press. Hardcover. 346 pages. $48 for California customers including sales tax, or $45 outside California via first class mail from the Reveg Edge, Box 609, Redwood City, Ca., 94064.

1. Desert Grasslands and Grasses.
2. Desert Grassland, Mixed Shrub Savanna, Shrub Steppe, or Semidesert scrub? The Dilemma of Coexisting Growth Forms.
3. Desert Grassland History: Changing Climates, Evolution, Biogeography, and Community Dynamics.
4. Landscape Evolution, Soil Formation and Arizona's Desert Grasslands.
5. The Role of Fire in the Desert Grasslands.
6. Roles of Invertebrates in Desert Grassland Ecosystems.
7. Roles of Vertebrates in the Desert Grassland.
8. Human Impacts on the Grasslands of S.E. Arizona
9. Revegetation in the Desert Grassland.

Three Appendices: Common & Scientific Plant, Invertebrate and Vertebrate names.

Principally covers the desert Southwest grasslands but has valuable perspective for any native grass management in arid areas (Mojave, Colorado deserts, Great Basin, etc.).


BOOK: Problem Analysis for the Vegetation Diversity Project.
By David A. Pike & Michael M. Borman. 1993. USDI, BLM. Technical Note, Oregon State Office, OR-036-0l. 100 pages. FREE from the National Biological Service, Forest & Rangeland Ecosystem Center, 3200 SW Jefferson Way, Corvallis, OR. 97331. Phone (541) 750-7307

Pike & Borman have written one of the most important publications on ecological restoration.
It is a how-to book which outlines the scope of knowledge that will be necessary for large scale ecological restoration. They are asking: What would be necessary to do ecological restoration using locally collected natives to restore seven million acres of desert land that would not recover naturally over time?

The publication is divided into two sections: The first part -- outlines what areas of knowledge we need to do successful ecological restoration:

1.) An ecosystem description.
2.) Vegetation dynamics.
3.) Competition and Establishment.
4.) Plant materials and Seed Technology.
5.) Maintenance of Native Plant Diversity.
6.) Concerns of Land and Resource Managers.

The second part-- outlines the studies necessary to gain the knowledge we need, and has prioritized the research into small projects encouraging land managers to make accomplishments each year. Topic headings are:

1.) Plant communities for study.
2.) Long-term monitoring of Biological diversity.
3.) Competition and Establishment.
4.) Plant materials and Seed Technology.
5.) Maintenance of Desired Native Vegetation.
6.) Special Status Plants.

Under section four, for example, the Plant Materials and Seed Technology section,
there are subsections A, B and C:

A. Ecotypes and Phenotypes.
B. Problem Diaspores.
C. Seed Priming.

Then, when you look up under the subsections, like Subsection A, Ecotypes and Phenotypes, there are five prioritized experiments you can do to answer questions about plant ecotypes. How easy can it get?! The dream ecological restoration cook-book!

The literature cited lists over 250 references, and there are interesting Appendices:

A.) Commercial seed Sources.
B.) Cultural Practices [for specific species].
C.) Seed testing.
D.) Seed storage.
E.) Seed treatment studies [of specific species like Indian Ricegrass].
F.) Noxious weeds [lists state-by-state].
G.) Concerns of Land and Resource Managers [replies from staff of various BLM offices].


ARTICLE: Vanishing Grasslands. By Manfred Knaak, California State Archaeologist. January 1996 issue of the Resource Inventory Reporter, Anza-Borego Desert State Park, General Plan Team. Phone (619) 767-4879. Article hypothesizes that perennial grasslands may have been much more widespread in the Anza-Borego area, based on finding Native American grinding rocks, typically used for preparing acorn meal, far from any oak trees. It is suggested that the grinding rocks were used to process Indian Rice grass (Oryzopsis hymenoides) but those stands have been exterminated by grazing.

We may think that most of North America has been botanically explored, and that we know all the plants that occur here according to the Linnean classification system of genus and species. Unfortunately, the Linnean system limits our view of life to think of plants and animals as scientific binomial names, and to sort them out through morphological structures or genetically related categories. The Linnean system may give the restoration practitioner the false confidence that as long as you have an organism figured out to the species level, you don't need to look further.

Once we start exploring below the species level, the really exciting botanical exploration will begin. When you get involved in ecotype study and ecological restoration, you get a deep look at life and its relationship to its environment. You get an opportunity to read the fascinating and ancient stories that the environment has written into the genes and structures of the native plants and animals. You begin to discover how the plants and animals function with and have evolved with their environment.

Waves of native plant ecotype explorations occurred between 1895 and 1945, and stopped 50 years ago. We need to pick up where the elders ended 50 years ago and become the new Ecotype Explorers.

The new Ecotype Explorers will make remarkable discoveries about ecotypes and their functioning, but most exciting to me is that we will participate in creating the newest botanical language, forms of taxonomy, and be inventing new words to describe the discoveries of new worlds.

Craig Dremann (650) 325-7333. Box 361, Redwood City, Ca. 94064

Updated December 23, 2022 - The Reveg Edge Ecological Restoration services.