Wantonly Weedy Wednesday

Avena fatua, an annual grass and weed found in the Prairieform Vacantlands Broakland study area, Berkeley, California

We have chosen wild oat (Avena fatua) as our first wanton weed of the Wantonly Weedy Wednesday series. The choice is in part due to the fact that Avena fatua is just such a ubiquitous part of the California landscape. Those golden hillsides you see throughout much of the state are actually painted that color by way of vast seas of Avena fatua, which is non-native annual that has, believe it or not, been present in California for over 200 years. The grass originally made its way to North America as a crop contaminant and can now be found growing in all 50 states. As it is an annual and an aggressive seeder and self-sower, it can quite successfully outcompete native perennial grass populations, particularly in areas that are heavily grazed or disturbed. However, given the fact that it has been found in California since the late 1700s, can we still consider it a non-native grass? At what point does it become native? After 300 years? 400? We have no answers to these questions but merely pose them as wantonly weedy food for thought. Talk amongst yourselves; discuss. For further reading and exploration, click HERE.

John Kamp

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