Medusahead - Taeniatherum caput-medusae
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Flowers from May to June
Medusahead was introduced from Eurasia and occurs on millions of acres of semi-arid rangeland in the Pacific Northwest. Infested acres suffer a severe reduction in grazing capacity because of the irritating awns.
This highly competitive annual grass causes major economic damage for California ranchers and severely degrades grassland habitat. Medusahead contains high silica content and has long, stiff awns, making it very unpalatable for cattle, except for very early in the growing season. In some areas, it has been estimated that medusahead infestations have lowered the carrying capacity of the rangeland by close to 75%. Like barb goatgrass, medusahead matures later than most other annual grasses, and is easiest to spot during late spring or summer. Due to its high silica content, the grass also decomposes very slowly, and medusahead often forms dense mats that crowds out more desirable species.
Control of this invasive grass has proven to be time consuming and costly. The most effective control method in other areas has been prescribed burns, which can be logistically difficult or even impossible in more urbanized areas. Medusahead is most commonly found in southeastern Monterey County, where local ranchers are working diligently to combat this serious rangeland invader. It has recently been found in several locations throughout San Luis Obispo County, and is expected to occur in others. If you suspect that you may have a medusahead infestation on your property, or that you spotted it somewhere within SLO County, please contact the SLO County Department of Agriculture.
Website, video, and graphics by Rob Nelson
For more information on this plant or management please contact US Army Corp of Engineers