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Bothriochloa ischaemum var. songarica — King Ranch Bluestem
On Upper Deadman's Creek (Hays County)

by Bob Harms  email-here

King Ranch Bluestem (KR) is commonly the dominant bunch grass of open fields in N. Hays County, especially those that were intensively grazed until recently. This exotic Eurasian species, introduced for grazing and as a roadside grass, has proven to be an unwelcome invasive addition to the hill country flora.

The Beginning of a 30 Years' War

My experience with KR began in 1976, when we acquired 50 acres of overgrazed ranchland on the Hurlbut Ranch along upper Deadman's Creek, some 4 miles directly east of Pedernales Falls State Park.

Winter 1976–77

The Hurlbut cattle continued to graze our property, stopping only when, with the help of James Hurlbut, I fenced them out in late 1977.

3-strand fence sufficed. Hurlbut cattle, 1976
Rocky slopes above the bottomland.

But intensive grazing stopped in early 1976, and KR soon began to flourish in all open areas — even with occasional visits by the cattle. Cattle control at that time was achieved by chasing them a half mile down the valley. But eventually they always returned until the fence was in place.

Cattle in field being taken over by KR in 1977.

KR attempted to dominate even on the arid upper plateau with very shallow soil. The picture below was not taken to document this, but the tall, straw-colored grass at the far end (at the fenceline) is KR.

Upper plateau at road bend, 1977.