University of California

Distribution of the native grasses of California


Alan A. Beetle

Author Affiliations

Alan A. Beetle was Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Assistant Agronomist in the Experiment Station; resigned September 5, 1946.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 17(9):309-357. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v17n09p309. April 1947.

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Abstract does not appear. First page follows.

The grasses, supplemented by certain legumes, form the principal basis for range wealth. The natural forage value of the Gramineae as a whole makes an intensive study of their characteristics important, for the broader the knowledge concerning them the more readily may any problem be met. The following paper presents a picture of the current distributions of grasses in California, together with evidences of their floral origins by migration from other regions.

Vegetation has many characteristics which are not always apparent at first glance. For instance, certain elements of the vegetation are native in their location, some are native elsewhere and have only recently been introduced. Some are old species often representative of a primitive condition in their genus, still others appear to be recently evolved. Some of the migrants arrived in California from the north during glacial periods, some crossed the ocean, and others came from the south during interglacial periods. Some plants are distributionally restricted for a number of reasons, including: (1) specialization as to habitat or environmental repression, as the species of vernal pools; (2) recent origin (plants sometimes referred to as neoendemics or initiates), as the endemic varieties of Distichlis spicata; (3) ancient origin (paleoendemics or relics); and (4) genotypic specialization (genetic endemics). The limiting factors controlling distribution of grasses are then not always easily recognized, but some attempt has been made to appraise these historical and ecological factors which contribute to an understanding of the present botanical composition of the California rangeland.

Introduced grasses are frequently mentioned in order to complete the overall picture or because of contrast in distributional behavior. Principal attention is paid, however, to the native species, the limits of whose areas are stabilized by climatic and edaphic features interacting over a long period of time. Distributions of 184 California grasses are shown in the maps on pages 319-339. Not all the native species have been mapped but those omitted would not contribute anything new or disturbing. A few introduced species have been mapped where their area of adaptability seemed limited and already occupied.


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Beetle A. 1947. Distribution of the native grasses of California. Hilgardia 17(9):309-357. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v17n09p309
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