Puccinellia howellii

Common Names:
Howell's alkali grass
Growth Habit:
CPC Number:
Profile Contributors:
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D.
Fully Sponsored

Reference Links

ITIS - Tropicos - USDA Plants - Fish & WildLife

Participating Institutions

The following Participating Institutions are custodians for this species in the CPC National Collection:
Rae Selling Berry Seed Bank & Plant Conservation Programs

The conservation of Puccinellia howellii is fully sponsored.
Edward Guerrant, Ph.D. contributed to this Plant Profile.


A small cluster of mineral springs in Shasta County, California is the only place that the perennial bunchgrass Puccinellia howellii has ever been found. The total spring area is only 1.2 acres (about 52,000-sq. ft.), and the limited habitat makes this species particularly vulnerable to catastrophic events. This very specific habitat for Howell's alkaligrass is unfortunately located directly adjacent to a state highway and has been subjected to disturbances and destruction from garbage dumping, vehicle parking, accidents, road construction, road maintenance, and pollution. In the mid-90's, the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) re-aligned the road resulting in the loss of 1,200 square ft. of habitat from one spring. To offset this destruction, CalTrans workers restored a section of another spring that had been disturbed by bridge construction and covered with fill in the 1950's. Transplantation of P. howellii into the restored area was initially successful, but as of 2001 competition from saltgrass (Distichlis spicata), a native but invasive and aggressive grass, is threatening the success of the restoration. The original disturbance in the 1950's allowed D. spicata to gain a foothold in the springs.

Protection of the site from further disturbance will be critical to the continued survival of Howell's alkaligrass. Although saltgrass has already invaded the disturbed areas, effective methods of control have been developed. Efforts must be made to ensure that further habitat disturbances do not give saltgrass additional opportunities to colonize. In this instance, it is abundantly clear that human caused disturbance has been the instrument of destruction. Protection of the springs will not only benefit this species and other native plants, but wildlife as well, as the springs are an important source of salt for local wildlife, especially the black-tailed deer (think salt licks) and the band-tailed pigeon. (Fulgham et al. 1997).

Distribution & Occurrence


Conservation, Ecology & Research