Wild and Domesticated Oats
One or the other or both wild species, common (Avena fatua) or slender (A. barbata) wild oats are extremely widespread all along the Pacific Coast. They can be found in vacant lots, roadsides, pastures, and yes, even in our beautifully kept native plant gardens. This doesn’t mean that we’re bad gardeners, just that this genus produces very effective weeds.
Identifying Wild Oats
Wild oats are members of the grass family (Poaceae or Gramineae). Oats have some of the largest flowers in this family of otherwise tiny to minute flowers.
Parts of Oats (Avena spp.)
Their parts are almost large enough to be seen with the naked eye. Individual grass flowers are aggregated into tiny clusters (spikelets). The spikelets are the readily visible units hanging down in the photograph and drawing.
Each oat spikelet consists of two large scales (bracts or more specifically glumes) surrounding two to three small flowers called florets. Each floret contains the 3 male organs (stamens) and a single pistil consisting of a basal ovary and two feathery stigmas. The stamens and pistils can’t be seen in the drawings or photo as they are totally hidden between to additional bracts.
The outer (and the only one visible) is the canoe-shaped lemma and a totally surrounded, thin palea. There are no recognizable sepals or petals. In the wild oat species, a stout bristle arises from the back of the lemma. This bristle is known as an awn. After the pistil is pollinated, its single seed matures and fuses to the inner ovary wall to become the unique fruit produced only by the grasses (caryopsis or grain).
The seed coat and ovary walls, when removed from the grain, are the bran we can buy at grocery and health food stores. In oats, the outside of the developing grain adheres to the inside of lemma and palea. This means that seed dispersal in oats (as well as most other grasses) is actually floret dispersal. The awn plays a vital role in this dispersal. The long, stout awns are bent in the middle; they bend or straighten depending on moisture availability. When it is moist, the awns absorb water and straighten at the bend. This causes the floret body (including enclosed seed) to be pushed forward. When it is dry, the awn flexes at the bend. Why doesn’t it pull the floret back? Notice the short, backward oriented “hairs” at the base of the floret. As the floret dries, these flip out and prevent it from being pulled backwards. Thus the floret is consistently pushed forward until it buries itself under a clod or it falls into a crack in the soil. Either way, the process both disperses and plants the oat seed.
There are three species of oats listed in Hoover’s SLO County flora. Two of the species possess a moderate to stout awn. These are the slender oat (Avena barbata) and the common oat (A. fatua). The third species in found occasionally along road sides and in fields where it had been grown. It is the domesticated oat (A. sativa). Domesticated oats produce larger grains and either totally lack an awn or if awns are present, they are weak. The lack of an awn would make the domesticated oats much better for animal feed.
The origin of oats is somewhat controversial. It is for sure, Old World and domestication most likely took place somewhere in the area surrounding the eastern Mediterranean Sea. It is rarely mentioned in literature of the early cultures of this area and then only as animal feed. It probably didn’t stack up well against the dominate grains of the area, wheat and barley. It seems to have had better acceptance further north and east in Central Eastern Europe and adjacent Western Asia. Here it became quite important, but not much as a human food but the mainstay of horse diet. It is from this area that the first mounted soldiers arose and horses allowed them readily to conquer the surrounding “horseless” peoples.
The conquering of horseless cultures by horse-mounted armies was repeated whenever it occurred. It even was a factor in Spain’s defeat of the Aztecs and Incas. Interestingly, the re-introduction of the feral horses into North America apparently caused the then agricultural Great Plains Native Americans to become mobile buffalo hunters. Why all this discussion of the horse? Because it was probably the need to bring grain on ships to feed the horses that introduced oats into California and beyond.
Uses of Oats by the Chumash
According to Jan Timbrook, the Chumash used the grains of wild oats and chia (Salvia colunbariae) seeds in a concoction. Wild oats (along with any native grasses growing with them) were beaten or striped into baskets. The chaff was beaten off with a mallet against rocks. The flour was separated from the chaff by winnowing. The flour was mixed with water and chia was added. It provided both energy and protein.
Controlling with Herbicides
There’s one more human-wild oat interaction worth mentioning. The July 2, 2011 Science News reports that herbicide resistant wild oats infects at least 4.9 MILLION hectares. This is over 1 million hectares more area than the second place plant water hemp.
First off, wild oats are not particularly “naturally” resistant to herbicides. Second, the article discusses herbicide resistance that is transferred to wild (weedy) plants from genetically modified crops. The way emphasized in the article, is via transfer of the herbicide resistant genes from genetically engineered crops to the weed via ordinary transfer of pollen. The crops are engineered to have a high tolerance for a specific herbicide. Then the farmer is assured that he may use large amounts of the herbicide to kill weeds without affecting the crop.
Unfortunately, many plant species can transfer pollen BETWEEN DIFFERENT species. Once the gene for herbicide resistance is in the weed, then it will spread rapidly via ordinary natural selection processes. When herbicides are applied wholesale as they are in modern monoculture agriculture, a few individuals that received the genetically modified gene are more likely to survive and produce seedlings that also carry the gene and are therefore resistant also. These seedling grow up and produce more and more resistant plants at an ever increasing rate. If you remember much about evolution, you can see that farmers are both supplying the source of the gene as well as applying a strong selection pressure for the spread of the resistance gene. The last is the same process, by the way, that creates antibiotic resistant microbes when we over use antibiotics. Only microbes often do it in a shorter time due to their faster reproductive rate.
The article talks primarily about a class of herbicides known as glyphosates which is found in a wide variety of herbicides including Roundup. It is this component that crop breeders have been adding to the genome of crops. The article talks primarily about resistance in and around crop fields, especially around grain fields. I suspect Roundup and Fusilade work in your garden because resistance is not universal. It just hasn’t reached isolated areas like your garden. Let’s hope it never does! But I hope it does raise a red flag about over use of any chemical pesticide. There is no genetic resistance to mechanical pulling of weeds!
Isn’t it great to come back after a summer of rest, exotic locations, family adventures or whatever else you were doing? I’m looking forward to our meetings.
I’ve picked up some new books and other materials for our book table, so be sure and give yourself time to browse at the October meeting. Also, we will be hosting a booth at the Nipomo Native Garden sale on Sunday, October 2, so come on out and join us. They have a great area to enjoy, and lots of plants for sale.
I would like to take this time to thank Karen Frank for all her help as my plant sale co-chairperson.
Over the years, and I mean years, Karen has put in many hours at the sale and has always been there to help. She and I went to CalPoly together and I am glad that we were able to continue our friendship as members of CNPS. Due to a change in her work, Karen can no longer help and I am looking for a member who would like to take her place assisting me.
The job is pretty simple – mainly just show up the day of the sale and help me get everything organized.
If you think you would like to be plant sale co-chairperson, please give me a call on my cell phone 805-674-2034. I promise that you will have fun and meet many interesting people. It’s also a good feeling knowing that you helped out our chapter in this very special way. Thank you.
CNPS-SLO is looking for a board member/volunteer to keep us organized and on track. We need to fill this very important position starting in January2012.
The chapter Secretary must be able to:
- Attend eight boardmeetings per year (October through June except January)
- Take minutes at those board meetings
- Distribute draft minutes by email to the members of the board well in advance of the next board meeting
- Make corrections and additions as needed
- Keep copies of the final minutes approved by the board
If you would like to participate in your local California Native Plant Society chapter and believe you can be of service, please call Susi Bernstein (805) 349-7180.
ANTA – Atascadero Native Tree Association
Planting for the Future – provided November 2010
Using tree mitigation funds the city of Atascadero and the Atascadero Native Tree Association (ANTA) have planted over 1000 native trees and shrubs on about 15 acres of city property. There are now eight planting sites – Paloma Creek Park, Heilman Grove, Las Lomas open space (blue oak), Stadium Park at Pinal (blue oak), Adobe Springs and three creek reservations.
Atascadero has a native tree ordinance. Mitigation, either in the form of payment into the tree fund, replanting or dedication of open space easements, is required when native trees are removed for development. The fund doubled in size during the recent housing boom. Unfortunately this meant many trees were removed. On one project alone more then 1000 oak trees were taken out and over 1300 more were impacted.
To better understand the condition of our native forest a tree inventory was completed and paid for from tree mitigation funds. The inventory became a practical possibility with the advent of GIS and digital aerial photography. One finding was that Quercus lobata or valley oaks and Quercus douglasii or blue oaks were not regenerating. If a site supported either of these trees they were our first choice for planting. Along the creeks we also planted Platanus racemosa, California sycamore, as they also are not regenerating. Initially we planted only trees but soon decided to add shrubs for wildlife habitat and to introduce people to a larger variety of native plants.
The California Conservation Corps does the initial site preparation and planting. They also do subsequent removal of weeds. All plant materials have gopher and browse protection. We experimented with a new wire mesh gopher basket. Planting was easier but the basket rolled to ground level and the gophers hopped right in. Also the gophers seemed to prefer sycamores and chewed off the roots around the basket. We lost a lot of the sycamores.
If water was available on site the existing irrigation system was expanded. The city contracted with a water truck to water the other sites. Two sites with heavy infestations of yellow star thistle have been sprayed. We do hand pulling within the browse protection, and weed whack to and around the plants. One site can be partially mowed with a tractor.
Two years ago we contracted with a nursery used by the forest service to grow 2000 local blue and valley oaks from acorns. Most of these were given to Atascadero residents. The nursery also experimented with some bare root stock using valley acorns. Thinking the success rate might be low we planted three bare root seedlings per gopher protection. In most cases all three seedlings survived and grew like weeds. We had expected the seedlings to be ready for Day of the Oak but Mother Earth had her own schedule and we had to revise the give-away date.
On the Las Lomas open space easement we had to replant 40 blue oak that were on a downhill slope because one of the residents thought the trees would block her view.
Atascadero covers 26 square miles and is a city within a native forest. Its topography of hills, valleys and seasonal creeks supports a variety of oak trees. We have become aware of how many trees it takes to make a forest and how much work it takes. Our one thousand trees and shrubs is a very small contribution to the regeneration of our forest. – Joan O’Keefe
CNPS-SLO holds our annual Native Plant Sale the first Saturday of November
The Nipomo Native Garden also holds an annual Native Plant Sale
Nurseries in San Luis Obispo county:
(Call for confirmation of times open to public)
Las Pilitas Native Plant Nursery 3232 Las Pilitas Road, Santa Margarita 805-438-5992 (Retail Fri & Sat)
Growing Grounds Farm Wholesale Nursery 3740 Orcutt Rd, San Luis Obispo 805-543-6071 (Retail 3rd Tues of Month)
SAGE Ecological Landscapes, 1301 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos, CA 93402 (805) 574-0777
Clearwater Color Wholesale Nursery 2335 Jacaranda Ln, Los Osos 805-528-4458 (Wholesale only)
Native Sons Wholesale Nursery 379 W. El Campo, Arroyo Grande 805-481-9636 (Retail 2nd Sat in April)
West Covina Wholesale Nursery 165 W. El Campo, Arroyo Grande 805-481-7626 (Wholesale only)
Nurseries outside of our county:
(Call for confirmation of times open to public)
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden 1212 Mission Canyon, Santa Barbara 805-682-4272 (classes)
Matilija Nursery 8225 Waters, Moorpark 805-523-8604
Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden 1500 W. College, Clairmont 909-625-8767 (classes)
Theodore Payne Foundation Nursery 10459 Tuxford, Sun Valley 818-768-1802 (classes and seed sales)
Tree of Life Nursery 33201 Ortega Hwy, San Juan Capistrano 949-728-0685
If you can’t find what you are looking for, ask your nursery to order it for you
You may also find California Natives at these local sources
BenJoy Nursery 2168 Lopez, Arroyo Grande 481-7488
Cherry Lane Nursery 436 Traffic Way, Arroyo Grande 489-1809
Miners Ace Hardware 186 Station Way, Arroyo Grande 489-9100
Miners Ace Hardware 9370 El Camino Real, Atascadero 466-0270
Bay Laurel Nursery 2500 El Camino Real, Atascadero 466-3449
Windmill Nursery 925 W. Hwy 246, Buellton 688-3993
Cambria Nursery and Florist 2801 Eton Rd, Cambria 927-4747
Los Osos Valley Nursery 301 Los Osos Valley Road, Los Osos 528-5300
Miners Ace Hardware 520 Highway 41, Morro Bay 722-2233
Nipomo Old Town Nursery 323 W. Tefft, Nipomo 929-1084
Whispering Tree 110 Norris, Orcutt 937-3808
Farm Supply 675 Tank Farm, SLO 543-3751
Miner’s Ace Hardware 2034 Santa Barbara St., SLO 543-2191
Do you have a nursery or source for California Natives that isn’t listed here? Or an update to this information? Please enter a comment below and we will update this page …
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA NATIVE PLANTS FOR SCHOOL & URBAN GARDENS
By Betsey Landis
Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter, California Native Plant Society
This book is written for teachers and school garden educators and planners. Anyone can download all or parts of the book for free from CNPS Chapter websites. However the book may not be printed and sold without the express permission of the Los Angeles/Santa Monica Mountains Chapter of CNPS. We have discussed printing small special orders but we do not plan to do any more printing of the book in the hundreds or thousands. I understand what I have written on those first two pages is a type of “creative commons” copyright. -Betsey Landis (the author)
Table of Contents
Please Add Your Comments
Have you used this resource for your school or public garden? Please share your experience in the comments below …
Saturday, October 22, 2011 9:00 am
Fall Plant Walk at La Purisima Mission
Charlie Blair will be leading a tour of fall-blooming plants of the Burton Mesa Chaparral. Come and see what is out at this sometimes forgotten time of the year.
Meet at 9:00 AM, east end of Burton Mesa Blvd (1550 E Burton Mesa Blvd.) in Mission Hills at the Community Service District Office.
From the north, take the Constellation Rd. off-ramp from SR 1, heading left, then turn right on Burton Mesa Blvd.
From the South, Burton Mesa Blvd. can be accessed from either Harris Grade Rd. or Rucker Rd.; again turn right.
Call Charlie Blair 733-3189 for details.