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Release: Copperhead - slender wheatgrass

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Release NameCopperhead
Release Typegermplasm
DescriptionThe individual plants of this germplasm are 60 to 100 cm tall, reaching mature heights by early July. Slender wheatgrass has mostly cauline leaves and does not develop dense basal foliage. Leaves are flat with prominent nerves and clasping auricles. At maturity, the stems may turn reddish purple at the base of the plant, just below the inflorescence. Copperhead germplasm produces a narrow spicate inflorescence, with the 5 to 7 flowered spikelets that are strongly imbricate (overlapping like shingles). Slender wheatgrass has short anthers making it strongly self-pollinated. Seeds of this slender wheatgrass are awnless or awn-tipped (2 to 3 mm).
SourceCopperhead germplasm is from a collection of at least 20 plants originating from approximately one-half mile north of Highway 1 across from the junction to Wisdom. The collection site was severely impacted by smelter fallout, surface wind, and water transported contaminates, as well as historic overflow from the canal transporting waste material to the Opportunity Sediment Ponds. The original collection site had a soil surface pH of 4.3, an average annual precipitation of 13.93 inches and an elevation of 5,000 feet.
Breeding MethodCopperhead germplasm slender wheatgrass is being released as a "natural-track" germplasm and increased with no purposeful manipulation. The accession was compared to two other collections from acid/heavy-metal impacted sites and four released cultivars. Copperhead germplasm has exhibited superior emergence, survival, and biomass production on amended acid/heavy metal impacted soil under the ambient climatic condition of the Upper Clark Fork Watershed (Deer Lodge County, Montana).
Intended UseSlender wheatgrass is recommended for erosion and reclamation use because of its good seedling vigor and rapid establishment qualities providing quick plant cover in native species seed mixtures.
Release InfoNRCS Bridger PMC in cooperation with Deer Lodge Valley Conservation District
Information SourcesRelease brochure:
Source StateMT
Source EcoregionMiddle Rockies


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