Plant Ecology

, Volume 216, Issue 3, pp 395–405 | Cite as

Bud bank dynamics and clonal growth strategy in the rhizomatous grass, Pascopyrum smithii

  • Jacqueline P. OttEmail author
  • David C. Hartnett


Recruitment of rhizomatous perennial grass ramets primarily occurs from the belowground bud bank. Investment in guerilla versus phalanx growth is determined by bud availability, development, and spatial distribution. The tiller and bud bank dynamics of Pascopyrum smithii, a dominant rhizomatous grass of the northern mixed-grass prairie, were examined in South Dakota throughout an annual cycle to assess the investment in guerilla versus phalanx growth and the role of different bud populations in renewal versus regenerative functions and vegetative spread via rhizomes. Pascopyrum smithii invested substantially in both phalanx and guerilla tiller production. However, investment in rhizome production before tiller recruitment prioritized guerilla over phalanx growth. Annual tiller recruitment of P. smithii was capable of flexible timing, occurring in either spring or fall. Renewal buds, from which rhizomes and tillers were recruited, primarily consisted of the youngest generation of buds borne at the base of tillers. Although rhizome axillary buds and older tiller axillary buds were rarely used in annual tiller recruitment, they provided a sizable reserve (regenerative) bud bank. The spatial distribution of bud development produced the mixed guerrilla–phalanx growth pattern and flexible tiller recruitment timing of P. smithii. Therefore, P. smithii is capable of employing both conservative and foraging growth strategies which will facilitate its persistence under local neighborhood variability and changing resource availability associated with environmental change. Understanding the spatial distribution of buds as determined by rhizome architecture is essential to understanding the distribution and composition of species within plant communities dominated by clonal species.


Bud Guerilla Phalanx Rhizome Vegetative reproduction Western wheatgrass 



This work was supported by the Kansas State University Division of Biology, the Konza Prairie Long-Term Ecological Research Program, and the USDA Rangeland Research Program [Grant number 310306]. We thank C. Ferguson, J. Nippert, and L. Murray for helpful suggestions on previous drafts of this manuscript. We also thank K. Sebes for lab assistance, and Wind Cave NP, especially B. Burkhart, for their field site support.

Supplementary material

11258_2014_444_MOESM1_ESM.jpg (888 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (JPG 889 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of BiologyKansas State UniversityKSUSA
  2. 2.Forest and Grassland Research LaboratoryUS Forest Service-Rocky Mountain Research StationRapid CityUSA

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