Danthonia californica, California Oatgrass

Danthonia californica, California Oatgrass

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Danthonia californica

This widespread native bunchgrass, about 1' tall with dense leafy tufts and a unique mounding appearance, has graceful seed stalks that arch to the ground 2' from the plant. It is found throughout the coast ranges of northern California in both open and partly shaded areas and up into Oregon. Though its appeal is subtle, once you tune into California oatgrass, you will rejoice when you see it in the wild, or when it begins to flourish in your own yard.

It is one of the few cleistogamous grasses, which means that viable seeds are found inside the bottom of the seed stalk, where they are self-fertilized. Slit the stalk with your fingernail, and you'll see two or three of these mysterious seeds resting in the stalk. The roots of this relatively small bunchgrass grow at least 6' deep.

It is considered an "ice-cream plant" by range specialists because of its extreme palatability to livestock. Danthonia californica withstands trampling and traffic. Nearby, it once grew with coast lotus, Lotus formosissimus, and that is what we have planted it with in our garden.