Kentucky Blugrass (Poa pratensis)
Kentucky bluegrass has a huge variety of uses for humans and animals; in fact, we love this plant so much that we have changed entire ecosystems to have it. This species—not the genre of music—is considered a somewhat native species to much of North America, but it was actually brought from Europe and Asia by the Spanish settlers. Beyond Spanish settlement, human disturbance, specifically related to land development, and this grass species share a rich history. The land that is now known as Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) has had its fair share of human disturbance, such as homesteading, large construction projects like dams, and farming, which changes the native ecosystem in those areas greatly. As a result, Kentucky bluegrass has replaced sagebrush ecosystems in many areas throughout Jackson Hole and GTNP.
Like many grasses, Kentucky bluegrass provides some benefits to these ecosystems. The grass is a cool-season perennial that begins growing in the spring, does not grow much in summer heat, and then continues growth into the fall. The leaves grow up to a foot tall and are known for being soft and smooth. Seeds are eaten by birds and rodents, and the shoots are eaten by rabbits, deer, elk, and other large mammals. It is preferred grazing grass for many livestock animals like horses, cows, and sheep. When it does not get trimmed or grazed, small animals will use this grass as shelter. You may be more familiar with the human use of Kentucky bluegrass at picnic areas, baseball fields, orchards, campgrounds, lawns, and golf courses.
Written by Celia Karim
PC: Rob Ireton on Flickr https://flic.kr/p/5FJCH2