Smooth brome is a grass that is commonly found in Minnesota in sunny areas. It was widely planted for forage and erosion control. Smooth brome emerges early in the season and forms dense cover in grasslands, roadsides, ditches, and moist wooded areas.
Smooth brome is a perennial cool season grass. It grows 2-4 feet high, with a hairless stem.
Leaves and stem
The leaf blade is about ¼ inch wide. The leaves have an "M"- or "W"-shaped constriction. Leaves alternate in coming off the stem and are usually hairless.
Smooth brome has a loose branching cluster of flowers (open panicle). Flowers bloom in June and July. The anthers are yellow and hang down from the flowers.
The seeds are brown, flat, and oblong. Smooth brome can spread vegetatively by underground stems called rhizomes.
Rhizomes and roots
Smooth brome reproduces vegetatively through horizontal stems growing below the soil surface, called rhizomes. Rhizomes form roots and produce new plants.
Smooth brome is a perennial grass. It can grow 2-4 feet tall. It reproduces both sexually via seeds and vegetatively by underground rhizomes. It is tolerant of a wide variety of conditions, but prefers moist soils and sunny locations.
Origin and spread
Smooth brome is native to Europe and Asia. It was imported in the late 1800s and was widely used as a forage grass, for hay production, and for erosion control. It is found throughout Minnesota.
Refer to EDDMapS Distribution Maps for current distribution.
Don't be fooled by these look-alikes
- Cheatgrass (downy brome), Bromus tectorum (invasive) and Japanese brome, Bromus japonicus (invasive) – Cheatgrass and Japanese brome tend to be smaller plants than smooth brome. Their seeds have an awn (hair-like bristle) at their tip. Both are annuals.
- Hairy woodland brome, Bromus pubescens (native) – Minnesota has several native Bromus species. Hairy woodland brome is covered in fine hairs. (No image)
- Reed canarygrass, Phalaris arundinacea (invasive) - Reed canarygrass seedheads are not as branched as smooth brome. Reed canarygrass leaves have a membrane where they attach to the stem and do not have the "M"-shaped crinkle of smooth brome.
- Regulatory classification
Smooth brome is not regulated.
- Threat to Minnesota
It can form dense cover and outcompete other species. It spreads into grasslands, prairies, roadsides, ditches, and moist wooded areas. It starts growing early in the spring before native warm season grasses.
- What you should do
One way that invasive plant seeds and fragments can spread is in soil. Sometimes plants are planted purposefully. You can prevent the spread of invasive plants.
PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks
- REMOVE plants, animals and mud from boots, gear, pets and vehicle.
- CLEAN your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
- STAY on designated roads and trails.
- PLANT non-invasive species.
- Native substitutes
- Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii)
- Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
- Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
- Prairie cordgrass (Spartina pectinata)
- Bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis)
- Control methods
Mechanical control can reduce smooth brome. Mowing in the spring should be followed up by additional mowing as needed. Late spring burns can reduce smooth brome.
Herbicide can be used when mowing and then, after a flush of growth, followed up with spraying repeatedly with glyphosate as needed.
- This species is unregulated, but you can add to the public information about this species by reporting new occurrences through EDDMapS.
- Smooth brome identification (Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden)
- Smooth brome identification and management (Ohio Invasive Plants Council)