Biscuit and Swale Prairies

Steppe Habitat
Biscuit and Swale Prairies 520x289
In contrast to the rolling hills and deep soils of the Palouse prairie, the open grasslands of the refuge area is a mosaic of small mounds of deeper soils, rock outcrops and swales of very shallow rocky soils which often contain vernal pools. Plant communities are similar to the Palouse Prairie which has mostly been converted to dryland agriculture. The mounds are dominated by the Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis)/common snowberry (Symphoricarpus albus) plant association. Scabland sage (Artemesia rigida)/Sandberg's bluegrass (Poa sandbergii) and Snow buckwheat (Eriogonum niveum)/Sandberg's bluegrass associations dominate the swales.  The three-tipped sage (Artemesia tripartita)/Idaho fescue association is a shrub-steppe association and is found on shallow stony soils associated with low ridges that penetrate this landscape. Invasive plant species especially annual grasses like cheatgrass, ventanata and medusa head wild rye are the greatest management concern for this habitat.

Facts About Biscuit and Swale Prairies

The steppe habitat of the refuge represents half of the remaining intact and protected Palouse prairie in the state.