Bromegrass is a cool-season species that is capable of surviving cold winter climates. It serves as an annual or perennial crop more than an ornamental or turf planting. The identification characteristics are not always obvious. Frequently, the leaf blades bear a W-shaped mark across the midpoint. The flower and seed head nod or droop at maturity, according to John Eastman's "The Book of Field and Roadside: Open-Country Weeds, Trees, and Wildflowers of Eastern North America."
Smooth bromegrass produces a long-lived sod grass. The smooth variety divides into two categories: Northern bromegrass and Southern bromegrass. The Northern type ranges from western Canada to the northern Great Plains. The Southern type thrives in the Corn Belt states and central Great Plains. The stem grows 2 to 4 feet tall and bears light green leaves. Smooth bromegrass establishes rapidly as a single species or in a mix with alfalfa. It makes a protein-packed hay crop and a palatable pasture grass, but it grows back slowly after hay cutting or grazing. It does not tolerate drought well and goes dormant in dry periods. The grass escapes cultivation and takes over landscapes if left unchecked. Smooth bromegrass is susceptible to bacterial blight, a disease that causes brown to purple colored spots to develop on leaf blades.
Meadow bromegrass provides a long-lived, bunch grass. Bunch grass emerges in a clump as opposed to sod, which springs up and spreads horizontally. The main stem develops leaves near the base, carries purple or white seed and reaches up to 4 feet in height. Meadow bromegrass grows alone or in an alfalfa mix but takes longer to establish than smooth bromegrass. It makes an excellent hay and pasture crop that produces as much forage as the smooth variety under optimal conditions. It regrows quickly after cutting or grazing, tolerates drought and stays green throughout the growing season. Meadow bromegrass exhibits sensitivity to flooding and is susceptible Banks grass mite, a pest that infests and kills plants.
Mountain bromegrass yields a short-lived bunch grass. The main stem gets up to 3 feet tall and forms hairy leaf blades. It establishes rapidly in mixtures with red clover and sweet clover. It serves as a pasture planting, but the forage turns fibrous at maturity and the annual yield tapers after the second season. This plant type possesses a fibrous root system that prevents soil loss and so is more suited as groundcover for mining and roadside reclamation sites. Mountain bromegrass does not tolerate drought. It is susceptible to a fungus called head smut that causes plants to lose vigor and decline after the second growing cycle.