Native Grasses in Pasture

Productive grasslands formerly thrived on low terraces adjacent to the riparian corridor of the San Pedro River. Early European settlers described dense stands of tall grasses that provided excellent grazing for livestock. Since settlement, most of the former grasslands have been degraded by overuse and invasion by exotic and native plants. Cattle spread seeds of native mesquites into the grasslands, which grow into thick mesquite bosques along the cottonwood-willow riparian corridor. Degradation of these formerly productive areas means the loss of habitat for flora and fauna that rely on grassland communities.

The Sweetwater Center is reestablishing native perennial grasses in Saguaro Juniper’s lowland pasture. This will provide habitat for grassland species, broaden the diversity in these areas, and improve connections between riparian zones along the San Pedro and native rangelands on the hills above.

Saguaro Juniper volunteers and friends have been digging mesquite from the pasture for a decade. The Sweetwater Center’s first native grass seeding was an area that had been invaded by mesquite and had not been irrigated for at least the previous ten years. After the mesquites were removed, we sowed this area the summer of 2013.