Bluejoint Reedgrass

Credit: 
Reg Newman, BC FLNR
Scientific name: 

Calamagrostis canadensis (Michx.) P. Beauv.

Type: 
Native Grass
Annual precip. min (mm): 
360
Annual precip. max (mm): 
1,650
Seed size: 
Small
Seeds per kg: 
5,000,000
PR Suitability note: 
Bluejoint reedgrass is very common and widespread in native plant communities in the Peace Region.
Key considerations: 
Bluejoint reedgrass, is a suitable species for site rehabilitation and is very competitive. It prefers moist sites. Although it has forage value for livestock and wildlife early in the season, it has low forage value when mature.
General Description: 

Bluejoint is a robust, hardy, tall, tufted, perennial grass native to boreal forests. It gets its name from the purplish-blue nodes on its stems, and is also referred to as Canada bluejoint grass, reedgrass, marsh reedgrass, and Scribner’s reedgrass. It provides good spring forage for livestock and native ungulates. When harvested as livestock feed from wet meadows that contain significant amounts of bluejoint reedgrass, it is referred to as “beaver grass.”

The root system is fibrous and rapidly forms extensive creeping rhizomes. It can form extensive swards that can become competitive and problematic in some situations, inhibiting natural regeneration of tree seedlings.

Bluejoint stems can grow up to 200 cm (79 in.) tall. The panicle is up to 25 cm (10 in.) long and is often nodding or dropping. Numerous leaf blades alternate up the stem and grow up to 40 cm (16 in.) long. Leaf blades are flat and taper to a sharp tip. Seed heads form on loose, somewhat drooping, purple-tinged panicles with numerous spikelets. Flowering occurs June to August, and seeds are set mid-August to late September.

Origin: 
Native to boreal forests in northern Canada.
Distribution: 
Distributed widely across British Columbia and Canada on disturbed sites including roadsides, abandoned fields, logging landings, harvested forest sites and skid trails. This grass is present throughout mid to highelevations of the Ponderosa Pine, Interior Douglas-fir, Interior Cedar-Hemlock, Montane Spruce, Sub-Boreal Pine-Spruce, Sub-Boreal Spruce, Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir, Boreal White and Black Spruce, and Spruce-Willow-Birch zones. Bluejoint can also occur on wetland and seepage sites in the Bunchgrass, Ponderosa Pine, Interior Douglas-fir, Montane Spruce, Engelmann Spruce-Subalpine Fir, Sub-Boreal Pine-Spruce, and Sub-Boreal Spruce zones.
Habitat and climate: 
Bluejoint prefers moist to wet habitats, especially wetlands, shorelines, streambanks, and ditches. It also is found commonly in open meadows, and can occasionally be found on dry soils or rocky outcrops.
Uses: 
Forage, revegetation, erosion control, and wildlife habitat.
Recovery after use (rating): 
M
Recovery after use: 
Decreases after heavy grazing and trampling in some areas. Otherwise, bluejoint is an increaser species and it readily reproduces through rhizomes and seed.
Palatability/Nutritional Value: 
Fair nutritional quality that is generally higher in early spring. Livestock generally avoid the coarse stems but will eat the large leaves.
Longevity (rating): 
H
Persistence (rating): 
H
Persistence: 
May persist for over 25 years, but often loses dominance in 10 to 20 years.
Invasiveness (rating): 
H
Invasiveness: 
Bluejoint is used as an indicator species of biodiversity and ecosystem integrity northern interior regions. However, after large-scale disturbances it can become dominant on some sites and a problem weed species for forest stand establishment.
Competitiveness (rating): 
H
Competitiveness: 
Can be highly competitive; mechanical or chemical control is required to control heavy swards to successfully establish tree seedlings.
Weed resistance (rating): 
H
Weed resistance: 
Can become a weed in some situations.
Erosion control (rating): 
H
Erosion control: 
Rhizomes spread quickly in disturbed areas, and bluejoint can speed up recovery of soil properties like bulk density, organic matter content, and porosity. It has been used to lower water tables, but its competitive effect may outweigh the benefits. Bluejoint has been used to stabilize streambanks, filter runoff, increase evapotranspiration to reduce flooding, rehabilitate wetlands, and revegetate oil spills (Sourdough variety). However, if the ultimate objective is to return to natural spruce regeneration, special management of bluejoint’s highly competitive nature will be required.
Drought tolerance (rating): 
M
Drought tolerance: 
Bluejoint can be very drought tolerant once established.
Winter hardiness (rating): 
H
Soil texture preference (rating): 
A
Soil texture preference: 
Often found on fine-textured soils with good water holding capacity, but can be found on sandy soils with high water table. Prefers very moist to wet soils with a moderate nutrient regime.
Flooding tolerance (rating): 
H
Flooding tolerance: 
Bluejoint grows well on wet soils and has high tolerance to flooding.
Salinity tolerance (rating): 
M
Salinity tolerance: 
Can tolerate slightly brackish water.
Acidity tolerance (rating): 
H
Acidity tolerance : 
Prefers pH levels of 5.0 to 5.9 but has a low tolerance for alkalinity.
Shade tolerance: 
Considered a shade-intolerant species. Prefers open areas where it forms a distinctive understory to aspen or mixedwood stands.
Pests and/or disease threats: 
There has been some study using biological control with fungal agents and deleterious rhizome bacteria to limit the spread of bluejoint reedgrass.
Ease of establishment (rating): 
H
Ease of establishment: 
Establishes easily from wind-blown seed or from extensive underground rhizomes.
Application requirements: 
Apply seed with site preparation to create a suitable seedbed.
Suggested mixtures: 
Sometimes mixed with other grasses and legumes to reduce the competitiveness of bluejoint.
Management considerations: 
Proactive management is required to limit bluejoint spread in some situations. Careful scalping or large inverted mounds are mechanical controls that have been tried. Herbicides and replacement vegetation might be considered depending on the situation and management objectives. Sheep grazing with 2 grazing passes has also been used for successful control of bluejoint in the first season of tree establishment.