Danthonia californica, or California oatgrass, is a native species of grass, to California, that has a known tolerance for frequent disturbances in its habitats. A grass that is tolerant to disturbances such as fire, grazing, drought, and trampling traffic (getting walked on) is what makes California oatgrass an important asset to any garden or grassy meadow (Hayes and Holl 2011). Because of its persistent survival, California oatgrass is widely used in restorations of upland prairies, oak savannas, and transitional wetlands. The most important role of California oatgrass is to enhance biodiversity of environments by providing food for inhabitants, nesting areas, and hiding areas for gentle creatures like butterflies, beetles, and songbirds (Darris and Gonzalves 2008). Grassy tarweed, the popcorn flower, and the Bottlebrush Squirreltail are all organisms that benefit from California oatgrass being a resource within the same regions on the Pacific Coast. California oatgrass can grow roots as long as four feet long (Amme 2003) into the soil, this deep penetration into the earth helps the grass find water even during droughts. California oatgrass is high in nutrition and is consumed for its grains by animals and birds, and for its foliage by various insects. While the majority of California oatgrass is needed for consumption, the grass has evolved to grow long livingNematode Galls on California oatgrass with permission buds under the reach of grazing cattle, this allows the grass to grow new foliage (Amme 2008). California oatgrass grows in mesic grasslands, which are more fertile than other types of grasslands, the high fertility is what allows for the grasslands to accumulate a greater level of biomass. Because mesic grasslands accumulate greater levels of biomasses, they are susceptible to invasions by exotic grasses and shrubs. Disturbance regimes like controlled fires and grazing are actually needed to maintain this habitat. Invasive plants, NOT adapted to grazing animals, are eaten and thus prevented from invading and killing off native grass species that ARE adapted to grazing animals and controlled fires (Hayes and Holl 2003). The presence of grazing animals is extremely beneficial to the oatgrass because it is not a competitive species of grass. Specimens of California oatgrass have proven this in an experiment conducted in 2008 by showing reductions in overall growth while living in the presence of an invasive species of grass (Pfeifer-Meister et. al 2008). The grass is also a host for a species of nematode called "Cynipanguina danthoniaea". The nematodes form a symbiotic relationship with the oatgrass by living in tiny spherical “galls” on the undersides of the grass’s blades for up to two years. Hosting the nematodes has not shown to be harmful to the health of the oatgrass (Maggenti et al. 1973). In addition to hosting nematodes, California oatgrass can also become the host of the fungi Gloeotinia temulenta which causes "blind seed disease" and can have a significant affect on surrounding ryegrass. The blind seed disease can cause the germination rate in seeds to drop to as low as 1% successful. Gloeotinia temulenta is able to infect approximately 56 species world wide. The fungus infects its hosts by releasing large numbers of ascospores from its apothecia, typically at the same time of year that ryegrass is flowering. Airborne spores can land on stigmas, ovaries, or styles of flowers and will germinate and infect its host. The fungus goes through a secondary infection process where it "manifests" its host and fills it with a pinkish slime that contains conidia spores. The conidia spores are asexual and normally live for 1 month (Fischer 1944, Alderman 2001). California oatgrass obtains water and nutrients by extending its fibrous root system three to four feet deep in the surrounding soil and absorbs any nutrients and water into its roots via transpiration.


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