Habit: a cool-season perennial grass reaching up to 2.5 feet in height. California oatgrass has a bunching habit and its leaves are generally flat and grow either at the base or along the stems. Tufts of fine hair grow where the sheathing base clasps the stem. The inflorescence consists of an open, spreading panicle, with 1 to 5 spikelets each. The delicate spikelets bear several wheat-colored florets, which sometimes exhibit hints of purple. Flowering occurs from early to mid summer, depending on location, and the fruit produced is a grain.
Ecology: It is found in moist meadows, rocky ridges and ponderosa pine forests at elevations from 500 to 7,200 feet. Its native range extends from southern British Columbia, to southern California and east to Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
Growing conditions: full sun to partial shade, well-drained, moist to rather dry soil. It tolerates sandy and rocky locations, but grows best in loamy or clay soils. Its a great plant to enhance biodiversity, and widely used in restoration projects. California oatgrass provides feed, cover and hiding places for songbirds. Its seeds are consumed by mammals as well.
This species can also be used for erosion control and in native lawns. If desired, the blades can be mowed in order to maintain a carpet like appearance. North America is home of fewer than 10 native species of the Danthonia genus. Four of them are from the Pacific Northwest. Danthonias were named after Etienne Danthione, a French botanist and author of the 19th century.