Rangeland Plants

October 03, 2012 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by Rachel Frost, Montana State University

Rangeland plants are a key component of the ecosystems they inhabit.  They are the blanket that covers and protects the soil and the filter that purifies the water and air. Plants are the primary producers on rangeland, the food for livestock and wildlife that enable humans to subsist on the landscape.  To the educated eye, the kinds and amounts of plants present on the landscape tell a story about past management and the climate of the region. 

Plants on range are so numerous and different in their forms and growth habits that they should be grouped for convenience and ease of identification. Rangeland plants can be grouped by type, life span, season of growth, or origin.

Type of Plant - Learn more about the unique characteristics that distiguish grasses, grasslike plants, forbs and woody plants, the 4 type of plants found on rangelands.

Life Span of Rangeplants - Learn how long plants live and how this affects the way we manage plants on rangelands.

Season of Growth - Not all plants grow at the same time of the year. Learn the difference between cool-season and warm-season plants and how we manage them differently. 

Origin of Range Plants - Plants have been introduced to rangelands by humans and animals. Learn how those plants impact rangeland management, habitat value for wildlife, and forage value for livestock. Some introduced plants have become invasive species on rangelands that can be invasive and have serious ecological consequences.


Some plant species are known to be poisonous to livestock and should be identified and carefully managed.

Both plants and animals may be considered as invasive species on rangelands with both negative and positive aspects.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.