Deschampsia cespitosa Herbaceous Alliance
Tufted hair grass meadows

USDA Ecological Section Map

Summary Information

  • Primary Life FormHerb
  • Elevation0-3900 m
  • State RarityS4?
  • Global RarityG5
  • DistributionCAN: AB, BC, QC. USA: AZ, CA, CO, ID, ME, MT, NH, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OR, PA, UT, VT, WA, WY. Mexico (NatureServe)
  • Endemic to CaliforniaNo
  • Endemic to California Floristic Province and DesertsNo
  • Date Added1995/11/01

Characteristic Species

Deschampsia cespitosa is dominant or co-dominant in the herbaceous layer with other herbs that vary regionally; species associated in coastal regions include Agrostis stolonifera, Argentina egedii, Cirsium vulgare, Danthonia californica, Distichlis spicata, Holcus lanatus, Horkelia marinensis, Lilaeopsis masonii, Senecio hydrophiloides and Triglochin striata. Species associated in montane regions include Bistorta bistortoides, Cardamine breweri, Carex nebrascensis, Carex subnigricans, Carex utriculata, Dodecatheon jeffreyi, Epilobium spp., Juncus arcticus, Muhlenbergia filiformis, Oreostemma alpigenum, Perideridia parishii, Senecio scorzonella, Solidago multiradiata or Trifolium longipes.

Vegetation Layers

Herbs < 1 m; cover is intermittent to continuous.

Membership Rules

  • Deschampsia cespitosa > 50% relative cover in the herbaceous layer and usually > 20% absolute cover (S. Smith 1998, Potter 2005).
  • Deschampsia caespitosa > 50% relative cover in the herbaceous layer; Baccharis pilularis ≤ 20% absolute cover, and no taller than the tallest grasses (Keeler-Wolf et al. 2003a).


Coastal bluffs, terraces, sand dunes and seasonally flooded areas of moderate salinity; montane to alpine wet meadows. The USFWS Wetland Inventory (1996 national list) recognizes Deschampsia cespitosa as a FACW plant.

Other Habitat, Alliance and Community Groupings

MCV (1995) Tufted hair grass series
NVCS (2009) Deschampsia caespitosa saturated herbaceous alliance, Deschampsia caespitosa seasonally flooded herbaceous alliance, Deschampsia caespitosa temporarily flooded herbaceous alliance, Deschampsia caespitosa tidal herbaceous alliance
Calveg Wet grasses and forbs
Holland Coastal terrace prairie, Wet subalpine or alpine meadow
Munz Coastal prairie, Red fir forest
WHR Perennial grassland, Wet meadow
CDFW CA Code 41.220.00

National Vegetation Classification Hierarchy

Formation Class Mesomorphic Shrub and Herb Vegetation (Shrubland and Grassland)
Formation Subclass Temperate and Boreal Shrubland and Grassland
Formation Temperate Grassland, Meadow, and Shrubland
Division Vancouverian and Rocky Mountain Grassland and Shrubland
Macro Group Western Cordilleran montane-boreal wet meadow
Group Western cordilleran montane-boreal mesic wet meadow