Report of an investigation of the grasses of the arid districts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado


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Report of an investigation of the grasses of the arid districts of Kansas, Nebraska, and Colorado
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Vasey, George
Dept. of Agriculture, Botanical Division ( Washington, D.C )
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Dr. GEORGE VASEY, Botanist



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Dr. GEORGE VASEY, Botanist.


6078-Bull. 1




WASHINGTON, Septendmber 29, 186.
Conmmnissioner of Agriculture:
DEAR SIR: In accorda(ice within your commission to make an investi-
gation of the grasses and forage l)lants of the arid districts of the
West, I have the pleasure of informing you that I have recently spent
about six weeks in an examination of that part of the arid region erm-.
braced in the States of Kansas, Neblraskla, and Colorado, and in the
northeastern part of New Mexico.
The eastern boundary of the arid region has been commonly fixed at
the omie hundredth meridian. It has been estimated that nearly one-half
of the land belonging to the United States, exclusive of the Territory of
Alaska, lies west of this line, and amounts to some 900,000,000 acres.
Much the larger part of this immense region consists of mountains and
arid land. A large part of the land on the Pacific coast is productive
without irrigation, and some of the finest land for grazing purposes lies
in the mountain valleys and parks, where there is an abundant rainfall.
The remainder of this great domain consists mainly of arid land, such
as the high mesas of Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Southern
California, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming, in addition to those portions
of Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, and New Mexico before mentioned.
Various estimates have been made as to the amount of this arid land;
probably two-thirds of all the territory west of the one hundredth nmeri-
dian may b)e considered of this class, and so far as it has been utilized,
has been chiefly occupied for cattle and sheep ranches, for which pur-
pose alone it was thought to be adapted.


The time at my disposal only admitted of an investigation of the part
of this region which I have mentioned, and I will first speak of the
northeastern part of New Mexico. This is separated from the great
plains of Colorado by an eastward proIjection of the Raton ran ge of
mountains. This range rises to the height of about 8,000 feet at tihe
crossing of the Atcliison, Topeka and Santa F6 Railroad. The to" it
of Trinidad lies at the base of the range on the northern side, at tlit

elevation of 6,000 feet, and here the railroad begins the ascent of the
mountain, following the winding of a small stream. Near the summit
it passes through a tunnel, then emerges in New Mexico, and rapidly
dlescellds to the town of Ra.ton, which is at an elevation of about 6,700
feet. Here the plains recommence, stretching eastward to the east line
of tile Territory, thence into the region called "'No Man's Land and into
the Panhliandle" of Texas. Southward they extend through the Terri-
tory, but Lnlldlergo a consi(lerable change in character after reaching
about the thirty-fifth parallel of latitude, or about 140 miles from the
northern boundary.
The western boundary is the base of the Rocky Mountains, which
trend somewhat to the southwest, thus giving a greater breadth in the
southern part, but the average breadth from the mountains to the east
line may be reckoned at more than 100 miles. This is the best large
body of grazing land in tile Territory. The elevation along the base of
the mountains at the west is greater than it is in Colorado, and along
the railroad the altitude is over 6,000 feet.
The mesa slopes eastward gradually to the line of the Territory, where
the altitude is about 4,000 feet. This region is almost entirely covered
by several Mexican land grants, particularly those known as the Max-
well and Mora grants, and is included in the counties of Colfax, Mora,
and San Miguel. Little or no agriculture has been attempted except
with irrigation, and that is generally pursued by the native Mexicans,
who are generally contented with a few acres each on the watercourses.
In some of the valleys among the foot hills, however, are fertile spots
where some cultivation has been successfully attempted without irriga-
tion. According to the statement of Mr. Clarence Gordon in the census
report for 1880, there were in that year about 220,000 head of cattle in
these three northeastern counties, or over 60 per cent. of all that were
in the Territorx. Mr. Gordon estimates that there are 11,500,000 acres
of available pasturage land in this portion of the Territory, whichli would
give an average of abo'it 52 acres to the head of stock; but the ground
is also shared by a large numberof sheep. Colfax County was the most
heavily stocked, and gave an average of 24 acres to the head, while Mora
County gave 35 acres to the head, and Sani Miguel County 55. That
portion of the mesa near the Raton Range is so elevated as to be only
serviceable for cattle pa.-turage during five months otf umimer, and is
chiefly occupied as a she.p ranch.
The grasses of this region are mainly the same as prevail in Colorado,
viz, gramma and buffalo grass. in variable proportion, but the gramma
generally greatly predominating. Several other kinds occur in certain
localities, as on rocky hillsides and on bottom landl, but form only a small
proportion ;is compared with those prevailing on the mesa. These will
be noticed in another place. The quantity of grass upon tlie ground
varie- with the situation and soil. In the west part of' the Mora grant
there is a wide stretch of most excellent grazing land. On blutfs and


rocky grountid tlIe sa-.weed, a kilnd of 'Splanllish bayonet (Y'ucca qmi n sfi-
folia() ,icIietlv occllrs. an iiil occasionally nmay )be seen a large, 1lrincll-
ing, cactus ( pitia rrborce,'VC1s).
)Over the l 1rger J;Irt of tlis iesa the ;lp;Icit.y for suplporting cattle
will iwrobably a INrl.ige' fomn 15; to 20i acres t) tte heI ;id. There are. how-
ever, larg tracts wh h ic clii not siu' lV I. itilizedf1 romi the abse.ic of
runI nig Ii a I ter. This difficulty v will ,evt iii ll IIe overcome by the sink-
ing of wells.
Mr. Callhonii, ot' Watrotis, a well-kno\vii stockman, remiarked, ( ur
great want is a inore lwrodu1tiive grass. Tlhe qualityy is not so great an
object as the quantitvy."
Mr. Gordon estimates that there are 11 ,500,000 acres in this region
available for stock-raising, and that in 1880 it was stocked on the aver-
age at the rate of about 52 acres to the head. But the full grazing
capacity of the land cannot be realized under the raiche systeri. In
order to do this the cattle ranges must he restricted in extent, with
provision for whiter feeding, water, and shelter. If to this we add cul-
tivation of tlhie land and lpastures of more 1)roductive grasses, we may
expect greatly increased population and wealth. Mr. D. V. Brewster
has a section of land on the dry nimesa about 12 miles east of Las Vegas,
where he has dug a well and this year broken 30 acres, and expects to
break SO acres, on which he will try the experiment of cultivation. The
result of this experiment will be watched with great interest. In a deep
caion, 2S miles east of Springer, M. W. Mills, esq., has 100 acres under
cultivation in fruit trees, and has had good success. Whenever these
land grants are arranged for subdivision at reasonable prices, a move-
ment of immigration will probably take place. The towns of Raton,
Springer, and Las Vegas are the principal ones on the railroad in a dis-
tance of 150 miles.

We will now return to the arid region north of New Mexico. This is
bounded on the we.,t by the Rocky Mountains, and extends eastward to
the one hundredth i meridiai in the States of Kansas and Nebraska, a
distance of more than 300 miles. The elevation at the base of tlhe
mountains is about 5,500 to 6,000 feet. North of Colorado the high
mountain range breaks down1 into the elevated Laramie plains.
This region is drained in the nortliern part by the Platte River, the
north fork in Nebraska and tlhe south fork in Colorado; by the Repub-
lican River in Southern N'ebraska, the Smoky Hill in Kansas, and the
Arkansas and its branches in Southern Colorado and Kansas. It is an
immense treeless plain, sloping eastward at the rate of about 10 feet to-
the mile. It is cut up in many places by dry channels, called arroyas,
which carry off the surface-water during rains and convey it to the
larger streams. In the central part of the Colorado plateau is an ele-
vated ridge, known as the "divide," which separates the waters of the

-Platte from those which make their way on the south to the Arkansas.
This ridge is about 1(0 miles fromi east to west and 60f0 miles from north
to south. The southward drainage slope toward thile Arkansas River is
said to be about 40 feet to the mile. Occasional springs are found, but
large areas occur without any water.
There are some extensive tractsof very sandy land. sometimes thrown
into ridges, and sometimes into small, shifting hillocks. But by far the
larger part of thle surface of this great tract is a rich mixture of loam
and clay, increa.-iing in richness, fIr the most part, as the land descends
to lower altitudes. The same observations will apply mainly to the
eastern portions of thle tract in Kansas and Nebraska, where, at the one
hundredth meridian, the elevation is about 2.500 feet.
Near Denver and northward on the Platte and its branches are some of
the best agricultural lands ofColorado. They are irrigatedl by glitches and
canals drawn from the mountain streams. In this part of the State are
the enterprising towns of Boulder, L(ongmont, Fort Collins, and Greeley.
In the southern part the Arkansas lias been drawn upon flor purposes
of irrigation. But the irrigable lands constitute but a small part of the
great plains. They are mostly elevated above the streams, and tfor a
sul)ply of water must depend mainly upon wells and artificial reser-
voirs. The aiinfall over this region is from 15 to 20 inches per year,
increased occasionally in the southeastern part to "'4 inches. The plains
constitute about one-third of tlhe entire area of the State of Colorado.


It is stated that in 1884 here were in Eastern Colorado about 800,000
cattle, occupying aln area of some 20,000,000 acres, or about 40 acres per
head. Occupying the same territory there were also about 1,000,000
head of sheep. Some parts of this region have evidently been over-
stocked, but there are largeareas in tlhe eastern part of tle State which
have been little utilized on account of the scarcity of water.
In Kansas and Nebraska west of the one hundredth meridian the ele-
vation runs down from an average of 3,500 feet to that of some 2,500
feet in a distance of about 120 miles. I have not been able to obtain
any recent estimates as to tlhe quantity of cattle on ranches in this dis-
trict. The number h;is been greatlyreduced within two or three years,
)partly by thie removalof many herds to more northern ranges and partly
by means of the heavy losses of stock during the last winter from ex-
posure to an excesively severe occurrence of storms and blizzards, by
which some herds were almost entirely destroyed.
There are some sections wliere tlhe supply of running water is very
liminited, and these have not been much occupied.
There is reason to believe that the unproductive character of much
of this region li.ias l)een greatly exaggerated. andi many portions of this
Territory have recently been the field of a great rush of immigration,
by which the larger part will soon he absorbed by homesteads and pre-

emption claims for the purpose of general cultivation. The attempts
at agriculture which have been iiadle here during thle past two or three
years have been attended with considerable sli'cess, possibly owing to
favorable seasons, buit the most sanguine expectations are entertained
by the settlers.
The scene of greatest activity has been along the line of the Ateli-
son, Topeka and Santa F6 Railroad. From Dodge City westward to
La Junta new towns are splrilging ul"p as if by niagic, andi the surround-
ing country is being rapidly settled. Cimarron, Belfast, Pierceville,
Garden City, Hartland. Syracuse, Cooledge, and Lamar are some of
these new points of settlement. Several new and extensive irrigating
canals, drawn from the Arkansas River, have been carried through por-
tions of the country, which will enable much landl to be brought under
irrigation. The bottom lands and secoi(d bottoms are fiat and well
adapted to irrigation. The high lands have a rich soil, supporting a
good body of gramma and Nbuffalo grass. Oil the Kansas Pacific Rail-
road there is also considerable activity in tlhe way of settlement. Sor-
rento, Kit Carson, and Coronada are booming towns oni this road in
Eastern Colorado and Colona, Collyer, Grinnell, Sheridan, and Wallace
on the same road in Western Kansas. The railroad through this sec-
tion runs mostly on the divide or highest and least watered part of the
country. Wallace County seems to be particularly wanting in large
streams. Some of thie first blanches of the Smoky Hill River have
their rise in it, but the supply both of water and trees is small. There
has been little improvement or settlement in the county until recently.
The village of Wallace is built on the Government reservation of Fort
Wallace, which reservation is 2 miles wide by7 miles long. The build-
ings of the old military post are about 2 miles from the village. They
are mostly in a state of dilapidation, but a portion are substantially
built of stone and are well preserved.
A large and substantial dam which was built across the small stream
and utilized chiefly for an ice-pond still remains in a damaged condition,
and with some repairs could be employed for irrigation. The village
is on the high upland, and is supplied with water mainly from wells of
different depth. On the highest levels water is usually reached at about
150 feet. One-half the land lying along the railroad -is owned by the
company, and is not yet offered for sale, and settlers have generally
gone beyond the railroad limits. The few attempts which have been
made at cultivation without irrigation have been principally for the pur-
pose of obtaining forage crops of corn and millet, and have been so
successful that trials are now being made of wheat and othei farm crops.
At. this village and in the vicinity the grasses are grammia amlnd bufflo,
in variable proportions, the buffalo predominating on the highest levels,
but the gramma talking the lead elsewhere. Ti~e ground is well covered
and affords excellent p)asturage, and is quite capable of aftfording sum-
mer pasturage for stock at the "ate of 10 acres to the head.

On tile Burlington and Missouri Railroad, in Northeastern Colorado,
new settlements are fobrnming. Akron is a new town on the naked plain,
near no stream of water. The land is said to be rich ; certainly it has
this season produced promising crops of corn and millet on newly-
broken sod. Water is obtained at the leptlh of about 75 feet. Half a
mile north oftlhe station is the artesian well which was sutink by the
United States Government to tle depth of 1,200 feet and then aban-
do1e(1d. The water now rises freely ill the well to within 140 feet of the
surface, and is utilized to supplly the wants of settlers in the vicinity.
Tire grasses of tlne prairie are the same as at Wallace and elsewhere, but
somewhat more sparsely covering the ground. On tlhe same railroad
in Southwestern Nebraska, Benkelinan, Culbertson, and McCook are
thrifty towns on the Republican River, where tlhe land is fertile and con-
sideralble of it utinder cultivation. At McCook, on high ground north
and west of the town, fields of strong, promising corn and millet were
glowing on tihe dry prairie. The gramma and buffalo grasses cover the
soil richly a-id afford excellent pasturage. The greatest difficulty away
from the streams on the lhighlands is the want of water, toobtain which
it is sometimes necessary to sink wells 150 to 300 feet. Wheat has
yielded as high as 40 bushels to the acre without irrigation. In the town
.are planted several kinds of trees, as ash, box-elder, elm, white maple,
andl catalpa, which seem to be making healthy growth.
On what is called the Julesburg Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad
new towns aie springing up, and land is rapidly being located. Atwood,
Sterling, llifd, and Sedgwicik are within the boundaries of Colorado, and
Ogallali, O'Fallo1. and -( North Platte are in Nebraska. At the points
in Nebraska particularly there have been many land entries and con-
siderable cultivation coimmence(l. At North Platte and many miles
west (oft that place tlie river bottonm is several miles wide, and contains
rici neadIow l;I ind, wIlere great quantities of grass are cut annually
for ha v. This comisists of' several coarse species, princip)ally Panicum
r'irva tun, Arop'q!rfun' tuciinm anmid /odn prori.tncilis. intermixed
witli sedges and riuslices. It some places over large areas thlie principal
grass is that wlhich is called alkali or salt grass (Di.stichli. maritima),
whichih raak.s a close, thickly mit, looking like aI pasture of blue-grass.
'Tlie liiglilrd1ls away fro'n tlIe river are covered wvitlh the ubiquitous
griiii.a \with occa;sion;il buflfalo-grass a;nid llueI-Joint. On high levels
2"0) Iet ibove the river, on new 1hreakling. are fieldsof corn, which give
priomiise ot ai goodl itld.

There is a surprising difference in tlie estimates as to tlhe supporting
ability of these plains, some stating that it requires 40 or 50 acres to
rnnaintain one animial, others giving 120 or 30 acres, and still others 10or
15m;cres. All tliese estimates are correct as to certain localities, and
over tile entire region it. may be consi(lered lpobable that the average

amount required w ouli be al)onut 15 acres to thie head. InII tlie Celsus
Report ftor 1880, Mlr. (I'lIaience iior ln s;lays o)t Kaisas west of thie iiinet-
liitli Ieridialn \\Where there is suficielit 'at,'l,10 acres of ranLge will
suppolr1t i1ie leaId Idof nIe;It stock. When \Ite findnlu that there weic i llesti-
lmate, SO acres to ()a c1 ululit (1 stk, we have Ia(' to remember tliit at least
olne-alfo'f t ,the o-cc pie aea is scaitily watered, ald thlalt the r ,gion is
not fully stokdl,." sewshlere ihe says that ill 18SO tnieIe wet', in the
san'e re,.io OV(L' lS4,l)()(OO l (ea f of stock, ;il that, the al)pproximate acre-
ae for stock occupationn 1 5as '15,7,.SSO ac., r.. Aid in Nebraska, west
of the iiiniet -viiiatli niltridia n, there were l571,i.'S l head of (cattle, with an
appr)loximate a'eage age ocCti)pat iou of 2(J, O )f,000,0100acres, or aliout 48 acres
per head.
It is imllp)ossiblie to realize the full capacity otf these districts under
the ranch system. This (caI only l] e accomplished by limiting the ex-
tent of the range alnd the size of tile herds, so tl(hat they can be properly
cared for as to water, shelter, and, whiter feed ; and this would require
the cultivation of a part of the lahnd. The question of water supply on
the high lands will in lime be successfully solved, so that every fertile
acre can be beneficially enmployed(l. And( with these conditions fulfilled
the Supportilng capacity of the country can be easily doubled and quad-
Sufficient time lhas not elapsed to determine what will be the ultimate
success of general agriculture in this section, but there can be no doubt
that thie country is eminently a(ldaplted to l)astoral uses, and the settlers
who are now filling upl) the country would do well to direct their efforts
to stock raisi og a1(d to dairy interests.
Notwithstanidinug tile great development of the cattle industry during
recent, years, statistics s,,how that the production of beef has not kept
pace with tie in(.'erase of ip)opulationii, a ind t supply the great demand
for meat will requ ire (not only thee usual pro(luct of the ranches, but
opens also anll excellent opportunity of cattle t'.airming, where the addi-
tional labor amid ca;it employed will not only increase the supply, but
find ample renuneration.


Tlie inquiry will naturally arise in thoughtful minds, calnot the graz-
ing capacity of this legion be in.vreased by substituting more product-
ive grasses, those which will not only endure the aridity of the climate,
butalso clothe the group (nd ,more completely, ad furnish a more abundanit
growth ? There ca (;iI e no doubt as to the high nutritive value of tlhe
gram111a and buffalo grasses, but the yield is so light as to require a
large area for cattle to range over to obtain support. There cal be no
improvement il this respect without cultivation of tlhe soil.
It lhas been argued that in this arid region agriculture canllot be suc-
cessful from a want of sufficient rainfall. But it is now claimed by


those residing on the soil that this is erroneous. It is said that in the
IIat uIIral condition of the soil the full benefit of the rainflall is not obtained,
that the ground is so densely packed that it is impervious to minoi.ture, so
that a large share of the rainfall rapidly runs into the arrioyas and streams
as it would from a roof, whereas if the ground were plowed and pulver-
ized a large part of the rainfall would Ie retained for the gradual nour-
ishment of such plants as were on tlhe ground. Nature has here done
the best she could under the chicumistances. But nature never spon-
taneously presents us with great and luxuriant fields of grain or other
vegetables ready to the hand of man. But by means of agriculture
man directs and controls nature, and she willingly submits to his guid-
ance. Man has learned to select those l)lants, grains, and grasses
which are best adapted to his wants, and to grow them to the exclusion
of others. This is the essence of agriculture. Nature shows her will-
ingness even here to respond to the ameliorating influences of cultiva-
tion. No sooner is the ground plowed, and corn. sorghum, or millet
planted, than a crop many times as heavy as that of the native soil is at
once produced. Even if nothing but such annual crops as those can be
raised on this soil the cultivation of an eighth part of the land would
be sufficient to make safe the keeping of twice the number of cattle
which could subsist otherwise. But it is reasonable to conclude that
nature will be as ready to help in the production of perennial glasses
as she is in the annual ones. There is every reason to expect that even
the gramnima-grass may be made to double its yield by cultivation. But
there is a considerable number of grasses native to this district which
are much more thrifty and productive than the gramma and buffalo,
and if they were selected and sown upon the properly prepared land
there can be no doubt that a great improvement in the grass l)roduc-
tion would be effected. Indeed we should extend our inquiry to foreign
grasses cultivated in similar situations.


Between the thirty-seventh and forty third degrees of latitude, and
between the one hundredth and the one hundred and fifth degrees of
longitude, there are embraced not far from 120,000 square miles of sur-
face. There can be littledoubt that one-half of that quantity is capable
of sustaiiiing, under proper management, with provision for winter food
and shelter, at least 50 head of cattle to the square mile, or 3,000,000
cattle on the entire tract. By many of the residents this estimate would
be considered much too small. And can we not expect that the time is
advancing when we shall see all this vast area so improved as to fully
realize this estimate, not only for tlhe limited area above mentioned, but
for many other sections of what are now called the arid lands ? If also
we caln gradually introduce more productive grasses we can readily an-
ticipate a still further development of the cattle industry.

I have stated iIi t belief that n aNy other grasses and f'oraige aplamts
migihit be substituted for tlhe lprevaililg oet's oil this arid tralct which
would be iiiore prod lict ie.
But tiliis is a question wl0iiclh ca.l only ie settled by experiment. Suchl
grasses and forage plants require to he subhjected to careful and pro-
longed trials in order to 4obtai n proof of their relative values under dif-
f'erent conditions of soil, olistIlre, and locations.
Such experiments are difficult a'nd expensive, ai d cannot well be ialde
by private individuls; hence it is higlly im pl)rtant that the Govern-
ment should provide an experimental station ini a central and character-
istic location, where all the commonly cultivated gasses ;id forage
plants, and also the most promising native ones, could Ne thoroughly
tried under various conditions. This would be greatly in the interest
of that large body of settlers who are now taking possession of the
country, and who, without the aid of such information as could thus be
obtained and communicated, will be exposed( to many losses and dis-
appl)ointments in prosecuting agriculture under the peculiar circunim-
stances here existing. A properly conducted and well-continued series
of experiments in this direction would result in important discoveries of
great value to the future residents in this arid district.

I have spoken above of the Government reservation of Fort Wallace,
and I am induced to recommend the utilization of this property for the
purpose of an experimental station.
I recommend this because it is central, easy of access, and typical of
this large district of arid country. I recommend it also because here is
land presenting a suitable variety of elevation, moisture, &c., with all
the buildings which would be needed for the equipment of such a sta-
tion. I recommend it because its scope of work would be peculiar to,
and in the interest of a peculiar region of country, greatly needing the
information which it would secure.
A very moderate appropriation, expended under the Commissioner of
Agriculture, could here be made productive of a great-amount of good.
The problem presented could not be solved in one or two years, but
would require a well conducted and continued series of trials under
varied conditions.
The editor of the Wallace County Register, in a recent issue, makes
the following very rational remarks:
There cal lie no good reason assigned why the old Government pl-t, now t fall-
ing into decay. but t\ill capable, with small expvn.-e. of beiu,. fitti.d up fil' coliifif)ta-
ble residences a ud sliabiii ig, should not be ut iiize( fiwr the I ,eIii-tit of Atl whole country.
There is no finer belt of laud anywhere in the great Westthaiin we live within a


raidius (if lon miles, taking Wallace ;as a center. All this great area lies in what has
lcenit, l known ; as the Great American Deerl. It is not desert, but the very richest of
%oil, andlpot.ssss.-'es hlle finest climate in America. As yet it is undeveloped. Only one
thling is surely known of it; that is, it is a tin- stock country.
NeaHrly one-fourth of all this land (not including tlie railroad grant) has been taken
upl) li 'the timber-cuitiure act. Onc-half of this portion will be ready for planting
by the .,spring of 1-", tihe other half by the spring following. Nearly all of the re-
lm uinlcrd b has eeiun taken lip under the- other actl of Congress governing the public
doiniii. There is but little of it left to be taken. These homesteaders know but
little of'what the country will l)rGd(luct A tarnim of tle character contemplated would
greatly aid theiiim.

A P P E N 1) I X.

Thie native grasses occlpyiig tlha;t portion( of the arid region here in-
vestigated are iunumerous, but only two kinds play the most important
part in the supll)ort of animal life. These are, lotanially, Boltelouf
oligostachya and Buchlhe acf.yloidw, coinniionly called ,-rainima-grass and
buffalo grass, respectively, butt frequently called indiscriminately buf-
falo-grass. They are of low growth, forinnitg patches of greater or
less extent, with spaces of bare soil between the patches. The leaves
are short and mostly crow(led close to the ground. There are several
species of Bouteloua or grainnma.grass, but the one above named is the
principal one ont the great stretches of upland. The others occur lo-
cally, some on rocky ridges and some in what is called bottom land.
In valleys and bottoms near the mountains the dwarf gramma-grass,
Bouteloua prostrata, often carpl)ets the ground over large areas. This
extends, at least, from Northern Colorado to Santa Fe, N. Mex. The
common gramina varies much in size and vigor, according to its loca-
tion. In rich moist bottom land it may grow 2 feet high and form a
pretty close sod, but on the elevated dry plains it becomes greatly re-
duced in size and productiveness. Wherever it is not too closely
croppl)ed by cattle it seeks to send up) its flowering stalks, sometimes not
more than 6 inches high, but usually a foot or more. Near the top of
the slender stalk are from one to two, or rarely three, flower-spikes.
which when mature stand out nearly at right angles, and are an inch to
an inch and a half long, with the flowers all arranged on one side of the
The true buffalo-grass, Buchloe dactyloides, forms extensive cushion-
like beds, covering the ground closely with its short, compact foliage,
which is of a lighter color than the granima. This grass is very pecul-
iar in one respect. It is of a dio(.cious habit-that is, the two sexes
grow on different plants, or if on the same plant they are not on the
same stalk. Usually, however, they are wholly distinct aId in different
patches. The male spikes resemblein appearance those of the gramnma,
but are much smaller, and t lie stalks never glow tall. The female flowers
are inconspicuous, generally being concealed among the leaves near the
ground, and seedl is rarely formned, the plant being mainly propa),gated
by its short-jointed(l, creeping rumiirs, after the ma tanter of Bermiuda-
grass. According to nmy observation the gramma-grass is much the
most common, but the two are generally associated in varying propor-
tions, but together forming from 75 to 90 per cent. of tlhe whole grass


product. There are several different grasses, known under the names
of blue-stem, blue-joint, and bluegrass, all of which are different from
the blue-grass of the East.
One of these, sometimes called Colorado blue-stem, is botanically
called A.gropy/rum gflaClum. It has a stiff, rigid stem and( leaves, which
are usually of a bluish-green color. On hardly, dry soil its growth is low
andl sparse, only here and there a scattered stalk with a flower-spike
somewhat like a starved, beardless head of wheat, but in low, moist
groulld it often grows with great vigor 2 or 3 feet high, and wherever
it is alunida nt it is considered valuable for hay, and is a common resort
for rattle in winter. It is most comiinon near tlie lioulitains, but extends
into Western Kansas and Nebraska. Another grass, frequently called
tlhe blue-stemi, or blue-joint, of Kansas. is botanically called A ndropogon
.'proricialis. On the prairies of Eastern Kansas and Nebraska this is a
conspicuous and well-known grass, very highly esteemed fo tr hy. It
is said that it is gradually crowding out thle grainmina and buffalo
grasses. It is found, in some localities, quite to the base of thle mount-
ains, and is every where esteemed a good grass fobr ha. It grows
erect, frequently to the height of 5 or 6 feet. The leaves are long and
abundant; the stem has frequently a bluish color, and has at tlhe top
a cluster of from 3 to 5 flower spikes, each being 2 or 3 inches long, and
generally purplish in color.
There is another species much resembling this, which is botanically
called Andropogon Hafflii, and it prevails in very sandy soil; its roots
are thick and penetrate deeply in the soil, keeping it fresh and vigorous
in the driest time. This is sometimes called sand-grass, and it is said
to be greatly sought for by cattle in winter. It grows from 3 to 5 feet
high ; the flower spikes when developed are hairy, and have a white or
yellowish color, and the leaves and stem are commonly a light bluish-
greein color.
Another species of this family, called Andropoygn .xc',parius, grows in
dense tufts or bunches, generally on thin soil, or on bluffs and hills, but
frequently also on bottom land, anud is called buuchl-gra:s. Apparently
the same species in a somewhat different variety grows in the East, and
is one of the so called sedge-gurasses. It is probably what is referred to
by some Western writers as sage-grass. It is frequently cut for hay,
and serves a good purpose as winter forage.
Another important and valuable grass occurriugo in low or moist
ground, usually near streams, is Pminhum rir!/aum, which is sometimes
called wild red-top, or sometimes switch-grass. It varies in height from
2 to 4 feet, with long leaves and a wide-spreading panicle of flowers.
It is abundant on the native prairies in Eastern Kanusas, and forms a
."IOd proportion of the wild grass there cut for hay. It also forms an
important part of the native meadow-grasses in the valley of the Platte
as far \%est as O'Fallon, and in sinaller quantities to the base of the

Another species of this genus occurs in Texas, New Mexico, and South-
ern Colorado, which hlas tlie naime ol" Vinle Mes(Illit. It is lbot ilic.llly
called Panicum obutsnm. I found lpatcles of tiiis growing in Soutliern
Colorado, m akinlg an even grassy surface about 2 feet high, and appear-
inug as if it wouldtl cut '2 tons pvr acre. I a lso saw it in coisiderablde quan-
tity inl hay brotiglit into tlie 11i1elh) lmar'ket. It frequently throws iout
runners several feet long (6 to S feet so letimeues), which atintervals form
thickened woolly khnotsor nodes, which so inetimies take root. It deserves
attention witli reference to its agricultural valhie.
One of the so-called bimucl-grasses, otanlicailyv called Ory:opsis eus-
pidata, occurs near thle mountains in sandy soil, but I did not observe
it over the eastern part of the arid district. In Southern New Mexico
and Arizona, however, it is ,said to be an impl)ortant grass. Associated
with Andropoqon H011ii in very sandy districts is another tall grass, also
called sand-grass, wii.ich is otanicalIy, Ainnimophila ,longifolia. It is
coarse and tough, and its p)ricipaLl v-alue seems to be as a refuge from
starvation by cattle in the winter. It prevails on the sand dunes and
sand hills of the most barren districts.
Another grass of very different habit and growth is sometimes also
called sand-grass, salt-grass, and alkali-grass, botanically called Distich-
lis maritina. This is a low, very leafy grass, frequently forming the
principal part of the vegetation in alkaline soils, though not confined
to such. There seems to be a difference of opinion as to the value of
this grass, some regarding it as useful, others as of no value.
Wild r.e grass, botanically, various forms of Elymus canadensi., is fre-
quent in low grounds and borders of streains, and where it occurs in suf-
ficient quantity is cut, for hay., and is esteemedi one of the best kinds.
Among other grasses having some value, and occurring in some locali-
ties, may be named Sporobolus eryptan'drus, Sporobolus airoides, Chryso-
pogon nutaus, Hilari, Jamen.ii, Buutelou raceiemosa, Stipa sparlea, Ifele-
ria cristata, several species of .luhlenbergia anld Munroa sq;arrdsa.
Someof these may prove to be valuable in cuiltivation for this arid region.
Several worthless annual grasses are often abundantly miixed on the
plains with the granima and buffalo, such as Aristida purpurea, F'stfuca,
tenella, Hordeunm jtbatum, and Elymus Sitanion. Some of these are in-
jurious on account of the barbed awns which cause sore mouths in ani-
minals and work into the wool and even into the flesh of sleep.


Mr. H. MI. Taiylor, agent of thlie Bureau of Animal Industry, in his
report tbfor 1885 says, from 40 to 50 acres are required to support one
cow or horse on the arid regions of the plains."
Mr. S. H. Standlart,. another agent of the saie Bureau, says:
The ainmoiint of acreage it requires to support one aiiiumi 6u the ranige in this State
(Colorado) is :36. acres on thlie avenrige in orditniiry seasoiis. The reports are froim 13
to 100 acres, ;i'crd ing to locality.


The above estimates can only apply to the most barrel parts of the
arid dis-tricts. I think it can safely be said that there is very little land
in Western a1ns;ls and Nebrai-ka where thle native vegetation will not
give support to ,cattle at the rate of 10 aces per head, anld the ability
of tlhe laid may readily be doubled by agricultural means.


'l'hie Akron (Colohrado) Pioneer Press, Aulgust 2(0, 1SS6, says:
Tin' office of tlie Pioneer Press icseinlilets s4oliewhai'lt :tii agricultural hall at a county
fair. Corn, millet. blue-joint, potattoe.., Iickw'\i'.at, oat,'. flax, beans, &c., that will
compare favorabl i \\ti a;ny Stat' in tihe I'iiion. They were gow10n on sod in Col-
orado, the great Amuerican desert, by tedlerfvet.
In the Homuueseeker's Gui(de, pul)lislheid at Potter, Cheyenne County,
in Southwestern Nebraska, are statements of the results of several in-
stances of farming in that county last year, in which corn, potatoes,
vegetables, turnips, &c., planted on siod hland gave excellent results.
In the Denver Times, August, 18s6, is the following article
The bountiful yield of agricultural products in Northwestern Nebraska is a matter
of surprise to all heretofore strangers to this locality. Many lihomest-ea(lers who came
here last spring doubting and ti,',id, are now enthusiastic with the outlook. Why
should any one distrust a country where soil yields a plentiful harvest for the mere
planting, and where botundless grazing fields furnish pasturage for vast herds of cat-
tle the year round ? (Sidney Telegraph.)
The above is a sample of the reports which are coming in from the arid region to
the east and northeast of Denver. along the Union Pacific awl the Burlington Roads.
Not only Wetern Nebraska, but Western and Eastern Colorado are appar-
ently moving forward in the agricultural line. Reports are to the effect that settlers
from the eastward are crowding the rangers ini the eastern halves of Arapahoe, Weld,
and Bent Counties. They have generally settled upon the high lands, and have
planted crops which have had no water except that which has fathllen from the skies.
Strange as it may seem to the average man, who hlas been taught to regard the plains
east of Denver a, of no worth wiattevier. the c'ropis are reported as prospering. One
man is represented as having a 10-acre field of corn which averages 8 feet in height.
The. importance of such development cannot be overestimated. If good crops can be
regularly grown iipon the plains lands w itXhout irrigat1,, the q nestiku of securing
den-,t population in Colorado may be regarded as settled.
Surveyor-general Lawson, of Colorado, in a recent report to Commis-
sioner Sparks, says:
T'lie lands upon the plains in thlie eastern section of the State are being rapidly
settled upon by a thrifty. determined class of farmers, who come with the avowed
p1lrpo,-e of making g p,:r,,tuient homes, anmd who claim that the so-called "Great
Anmeriican Desert i. no desert ;it all, hiut i most fertile region capable of sustaining
a teeming popuiiatii'. l'li y claim with apparent confidence that thlie notion that
agriculture caniir In l profitalily pursued in any portion of these plains except where
inrigation is practi.alil- is ailtogerlier erroneous, and maintain that there is ample
rainfall to all 1the r'g1 ea.r o'li he Rock y Monnt iitins, to secure abundant crops upon
the .-oil, which I.s i'i and 1 l *t'aiii;l, anil thit the apparently ai di and unproductive
cli;iracter of rlnese lands a iis. frimi tlie fict thiat inll their natural state the water de-
posited by tlhe stnows of' winter a:il (lie riin- of spring antI summer have flowelld from
the -fiivrf'ie and ieni carrivled t' ylv the airroy;is anl sandyv ravines in the proportion
of at least fiour-tiftlis, wIe'r'eas NI ien thle soil sliall be plowed and cultivated it will



absorb and retain the moisture in the same proportion, not more thau one-fifth of the
water flowing off into gulches and arroyas. They point with confidence, in illistra-
tion of this idea, to thle fact that as the plowshare has advanced westward in the
States of Kansas and Nebraska the desert of the old geographies has disappeared.


The losses of stock on ranches, f'rom starvation and exposure, varies
greatly in different seasons and in different localities, being seldom less
than five per cent.
Mr. J. N. Bradley, an inspector of the Bureau of Animal Industry, says
in his Report for 1885, page 427:
The ranchmen calculate to lose about 3 to 5 per cent., from exposure, and consiilrr
it less expensive than providing shelter and winter food.
But these losses during some winters are greatly exceeded, in South-
ern Kansas the past winter amounting in nimany instances to the loss of
the larger portion of the herds. A similar condition existed in Eastern
Colorado, as will be seen from the following item from a Colorado paper:
Correspondent writing under date of July 23 from Apache to the Walsenburg
Cactus says: For the past two days the round-up has been in the Apache Valley.
The report of the 100 cowboys who comprise the force i.s anything but encouragil)ng as
to the losses of the past winter. Many put the estimate of losses of acclimated stock
as high as 75 per cent.; the most hopeful say 50 per cent. Among the dogies shipped
in last fall scarcely a remnant remains. One cattle company that turned loose 1,800
head of through Texas stock have found out, at a cost of 10 per cent. of their in-
vestment, that they have less than 100 head left. A cattleman of this neighbor-
hood who went into the winter with 1,000 head has so far been able to find less than
a dozen.
But the actual loss of life from starvation and exposure is not the
only consideration. Even among those cattle which survive the winter
there is always a great reduction of flesh and condition. Mr. S. H.
Standard, agent of the Bureau of Animal Industry, says:
The loss of flesh during the winter from want of shelter is 12 per cent. In Dakota
the loss of flesh during the winter is 17J per cent. (Report for 1885, p.327.)
We would therefore hail with satisfaction such a change in the cattle
industry as would obviate these risks and losses and bring it into the
hands of land-owners, who, by better care and management, will make
it possible to raise twice as many cattle, besides extending the dairy
and sheep interests.


Rapid changes are coming over our neighboring county of Bent. Though hereto-
fore recognized as a leading and almost exclusive stock-raising region, large ditch
enterprises have been projected there within a couple of years, and attention is di-
rected quite generally to farming. With the ditches, new people, that know nothing
of the range-stock business, have come in. Old-time ranchmen are considering "inw
they can bring their herds to the limits of a pasture, and how to provide feed to sup-
plement their abridged ranges. The town-boomers of Western Kansas have invaded
the eastern borders of the county this year, and are booming no less than three new
6078-Bull 1- 2


towwnS wilhin a few iniles of each other. At the same time the older towns of Las
Anlijas and La Juiinta have been infused with new energy and are making substantial
groNwth. (Review aind Standard, Pueblo, Colo.)
From the New York Tribune:
Tlieodore Roosevelt has come from the West with a springy step and bronzed coun-
t-n;i ce, and the general air of buoyancy which is the result of contact with the free
air of Dakota prairies. He says that the days of excessive profits in the cattle- busi-
ness art over, because there anre. too many people in the business, and the cattlemen
have to pay the penalty of crowding cattle more thickly on the prairies than the grass
will stand. Mr. Roosevelt thinks that the present system of cattle grazing will event-
ually cease and the business take a different form in different, localities. The land
that is fitted for agriculture will be taken up by the farmers, and the grazing lands
will gradually be fenced in and the great ranches be broken up to make place for
smaller ranches.
Respect fully submitted.
Botanist of the Department.


iiteloua oligostachya .................................... Graiu ia-grass,
BnuhIle daietyloides ......................................... Buffalo-grass,
Ainlropogon proviucialis ................................... Blue-joint,
Andropogon scoparius -. .......................Wir-riss. Sedgc-grass.
Panicuii virgat 1111.......................................... Switch-grass,
Disticlilis ma tritima.....................................A l'ku ii or Salt-grass,
Chrysopogoun utaus .. --....--..................... Reeil-grass. Si i'g1i i1 -gass,
Koeleria cristata .....................................-----------------------------------....Wild June-grass,
Mnhlenhergia glomerata .................................................
Hilaria Jamesii ..........................................................
Sporobolus cryptandrus ........................ ..........................
Sporobolus airoides..........................................-Bunch-grass,
Ely min us Caunadensis ..........................................Rye-grass,




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