Danthonia californica Herbaceous Alliance
California oat grass prairie

USDA Ecological Section Map

Summary Information

  • Primary Life FormHerb
  • Elevation0-2200 m
  • State RarityS3
  • Global RarityG4
  • DistributionUSA: CA, ID, OR, WA, WY (NatureServe)
  • Endemic to CaliforniaNo
  • Endemic to California Floristic Province and DesertsNo
  • Date Added1995/11/01

Characteristic Species

Danthonia californica is dominant or co-dominant in the herbaceous layer with Aira caryophyllea, Anthoxanthum odoratum, Arrhenatherum elatius, Bromus carinatus, Carex tumulicola, Danthonia pilosa, Epilobium spp., Festuca spp., Holcus lanatus, Iris douglasiana, Juncus arcticus, Lolium perenne, Lupinus rivularis, Melica californica, Muhlenbergia filiformis, Nassella pulchra, Plantago lanceolata, Poa pratensis, Poa secunda, Potentilla gracilis, Pteridium aquilinum, Ranunculus californicus, Ranunculus occidentalis, Rumex acetosella and Sisyrinchium bellum. Emergent trees or shrubs may be present at low cover, including Baccharis pilularis.

Vegetation Layers

Herbs < 1 m; cover is open to intermittent.

Membership Rules

  • Danthonia californica > 50% relative cover in the herbaceous canopy (Keeler-Wolf et al. 2003a).
  • Danthonia californica generally > 25% absolute cover in the herbaceous layer (S. Smith 1998).


Coastal bluffs, valley bottoms, floodplains, terraces, slopes, ridge tops. The USFWS Wetland Inventory (1996 national list) recognizes Danthonia californica as a FACW plant.

Other Habitat, Alliance and Community Groupings

MCV (1995) California oat grass series
NVCS (2009) Danthonia californica herbaceous alliance
Calveg Perennial grasses and forbs
Holland Coastal terrace prairie, Bald Hills prairie, Great Basin grassland
Munz Coastal prairie
WHR Perennial grassland
CDFW CA Code 41.050.00

National Vegetation Classification Hierarchy

Formation Class Mesomorphic Shrub and Herb Vegetation (Shrubland and Grassland)
Formation Subclass Temperate and Boreal Shrubland and Grassland
Formation Temperate Grassland, Meadow, and Shrubland
Division Vancouverian and Rocky Mountain Grassland and Shrubland
Macro Group Vancouverian Lowland Grassland and Shrubland
Group Vancouverian coastal grassland