Native Grasslands

Native Grasslands of Coastal California

Landowners Guide to Native Grasses and Management

People in California have very few guidelines for finding if they already have native grasses in patches remaining on their private property, or guidelines to encourage and preserve such relict patches.

An Introduction

Here, we present information on the native grasslands, including photographs of native grasses, to allow landowners or land managers to identify some of the important native and non-native grasses. We also provide a list of additional reading that include some of the more accessible information on California grasslands. We hope you find some native grasses, can manage them with understanding, and if you don’t have any, then find a source of nearby native seed and plant a patch of wild California. Don’t forget to just stare straight down at the beauty under your feet.

For our time, ownership of this land gives us a unique link to life on earth. Grasslands express the land’s vigor, biological wealth and tolerance of human uses. Grasslands are the threads of the living carpet that covers the earth.

Grasslands in California are among the most endangered ecosystem in the United States, and they continue to be on the decline. An area of approximately 11,000,000 acres (about 10% of the area of California) has been converted to annual grassland dominated by non-native annuals primarily of Mediterranean origin. Conversion to non-native annual vegetation was so fast, so extensive and so complete that the original extent and species composition of native perennial grasslands is unknown; however, the prairies of California contain many elements of the original habitat. Vast areas, including large parts of the Central Valley, that were formerly converted to annual non-native grasslands have now been converted to agricultural or urban land uses.

More About Grasslands

Former Hastings Reserve Director, Mark Stromberg, and Paul Kephart of Rana Creek Habitat Restoration Inc. put together a detailed packet of information on the native California grasslands and how to handle them as land managers. We have made this available for download as eight PDFs.

  1. Introduction & Background to Landowners Guide to Native Grass Enhancement and Restoration
  2. Start Again or Decide to Manage a Native Relict?
  3. Selected Invasive Weeds and Their Management in Native Grasslands – A detailed photo guide
  4. Native Grassland Reestablishment – A step-by-step guide on when and how to plant
  5. Selected Non-native Grasses and Grasslands Plants – Recognizing the problem plants
  6. Selected Native Perennial Grasses – Recognizing the beneficial natives
  7. Appendix – Contacts, Consultants, Seed Sources, Tools, etc
  8. References – Cited references and further readings
    Relevant articles: Stromberg, Kephart, Yadon 2002  Coastal Grasslands Madrono (PDF)Bring Back Native Grasses 2005 (PDF)Kephart 2001 Resource Management Demonstration at Russian Ridge Preserve (PDF).