Arrhenatherum elatius (false oat-grass)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Plant Type
- Distribution Table
- History of Introduction and Spread
- Risk of Introduction
- Habitat List
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Soil Tolerances
- Natural enemies
- Notes on Natural Enemies
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Pathway Vectors
- Impact Summary
- Economic Impact
- Environmental Impact
- Threatened Species
- Social Impact
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Similarities to Other Species/Conditions
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Arrhenatherum elatius (L.) P.Beauv. ex J.Presl & C.Presl.
Preferred Common Name
- false oat-grass
Other Scientific Names
- Arrhenatherum avenaceum P.Beauv.
- Arrhenatherum baeticum (Romero Zarco) Brullo, Miniss. & Spamp.
- Arrhenatherum bulbosum (Willd.) C.Presl.
- Avena bulbosa Willd.
- Avena elatior L.
- Avena tuberosa Gilib.
- Avenastrum elatius (L.) Jess.
- Holcus avenaceus var. bulbosus (Schrad.) Gaudich.
- Holcus elatior (L.) Scop.
- Hordeum avenaceum Steud.
International Common Names
- English: bulbous false oat; bulbous oatgrass; false oat; false oat grass; false oatgrass; French rye grass; French-rye; meadow oat grass; onion couch; onion twitch; onion-root twitch; tall meadow oat; tall oat grass; tall oatgrass; tall oat-grass; tuber oat grass
- Spanish: avena descollada; avena elevada; fromental; mazorilla; raygras Françés
- French: avoine élevée; fenasse; fromental; fromental élevé
- Russian: raigras frantsuzskii; raigras vysokii
- Chinese: yan mai cao
- Portuguese: erva-de-conta
Local Common Names
- Germany: französisches Raygras; Glatthafer; hoher Glatthafer
- Italy: avena altissima; erba altissima
- Japan: o-kani-tsuri
- Netherlands: Frans raaigras; glanshaver
- Poland: owsik wyniosly; rajgras wyniosly
- Portugal: aveia-de-rosário; aveia-grande
- Sweden: knylhavre; pärlhavre
- ARREL (Arrhenatherum elatius)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
False oat-grass, Arrhenatherum elatius, is a tall, usually erect, tussock-forming, perennial grass. It is sensitive to low temperatures and prefers neutral soils of high to moderate fertility. The species is native and widespread throughout most parts of Europe, western and southwestern Asia, and North Africa. Within its native range the species is often abundant in lightly grazed or mown grasslands, particularly hay meadows, or along roadside verges. It is however, absent or rare in pastures or other heavily grazed or trampled grasslands.
A. elatius has been deliberately introduced as a fodder and pasture grass into a number of countries and has become widespread in North America, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America. It has also been introduced as a fodder and ornamental grass into China and Japan. A. elatius has been recorded as an invader of native grasslands, such as prairies in North America, while its subspecies, A. elatius subsp. bulbosum, is often of more economic significance as a problematic weed in arable land.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Plantae
- Phylum: Spermatophyta
- Subphylum: Angiospermae
- Class: Monocotyledonae
- Order: Cyperales
- Family: Poaceae
- Genus: Arrhenatherum
- Species: Arrhenatherum elatius
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Frequently only referred to as variants, two subspecies have been described for Arrhenatherum elatius (Cussans and Morton, 1990), the more common and widespread of which is A. elatius subsp. elatius (L.) P. Beauv. ex J. & C. Presl. The second, A. elatius subsp. bulbosum (Willd.) Schübl. & G.Martens, the onion couch or tuber oat grass, is distinguished by the presence of corms at the base of the stem, by which it propagates. The Plant List (2013), however, does not accept subsp. elatius and places it in synonymy with A. elatius, but does additionally recognise subsp. sardoum (Em. Schmid) Gamisans and subsp. vulgare (Fr.) Hyl.
The name Arrhenatherum is derived from the Greek arrhen meaning male and atheras meaning awn, referring to the awn present on the staminate floret. The Latin epithet elatius means tall and refers to the plant’s stature, as reflected in one of its common names tall oat-grass.
DescriptionTop of page
A comprehensive description of the plant is given by Pfitzenmeyer (1962):
A. elatius is a tall (up to 180 cm), usually erect, tussock-forming, perennial grass. Shoots subcylindrical, young leaves convolute; sheaths split, with overlapping margins; ligules membranous, 1-3 mm long, blunt; blades without auricles, long (up to 40cm), their width increasing from the base to about two-thirds of their length, then decreasing to give an acuminate tip; upper surface, smooth, ribless; lower with marked keel. Flag leaves shorter, widest at their base, and keel not well developed. In subsp. bulbosum the lowest stem internodes are swollen and form 'bulbs', usually 4 to 9 mm in diameter, which can regenerate the plant; there may be up to seven or eight superimposed 'bulbs'.
Inflorescence a panicle with about ten nodes from which spring clusters of four to six stalks bearing the pedicels of the spikelets. Spikelets usually 2-flowered, the lower male only, the upper hermaphrodite; sometimes a third, fourth or even fifth floret may be present, hermaphrodite or rudimentary; lowest floret also sometimes hermaphrodite. Glumes membranous, unequal, the lower 1-nerved and shorter, the upper 3 –nerved and longer. Lower floret with a long, twisted, geniculate awn, inserted one-third from base of the lemma; upper floret generally awnless, but when present usually straight, and inserted near the tip of the lemma. Grain hairy, 4 mm long, enclosed in the hardened lemma. Plants usually glabrous, but specimens are sometimes found with a few scattered hairs on the sheaths and upper surface of the blades. Anthocyanin is frequently found at the base of the shoots and on the glumes and anthers, giving the panicles a distinctly purple appearance. Specimens without anthocyanin are occasionally found.
Illustrations of A. elatius are given in Hubbard (1954).
Plant TypeTop of page
DistributionTop of page
In Europe A. elatius is widespread and reaches as far as 70°N latitude on the Atlantic coast of Norway, and 65°N in Sweden and Finland (Hultén, 1950), the limit of its northern distribution closely following the -6.5°C January isotherm (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). In North Africa along its southern limit the species mainly inhabits the Atlas Mountains, while the Caucasus Mountains form its eastern limit (Maire, 1953; Pfitzenmeyer, 1962), although other authorities have the eastern native range extending into eastern European Russia and Central Asia (eMonocot, 2016).
The introduced range of A. elatius includes North and South America, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as parts of Asia (eMonocot, 2016). In North America it is found in all but a handful of the contiguous states of the USA, as well as Alaska and Hawaii, while in Canada it has become naturalized in the eastern provinces, as well as British Columbia (USDA-NRCS, 2016). In Australia it is naturalized in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania (Atlas of Living Australia, 2016).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|South Africa||Present||Introduced||KwaZulu-Natal Province|
|French Southern Territories|
|Federal Republic of Yugoslavia||Present||Native|
|Italy||Present||Native||Including Sardinia and Sicily|
|-Russian Far East||Present||Introduced|
|-Newfoundland and Labrador||Present||Introduced|
|-Prince Edward Island||Present||Introduced|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced|
|New Zealand||Present||Introduced||Invasive||Present on North, South and Chatham Islands; First reported: 1880s|
History of Introduction and SpreadTop of page
A. elatius was introduced from Europe into North America as a pasture grass in the early 1800s at the latest, with one source citing 1807 as a specific date (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, 2006; Utah State University Extension, 2016). However, introduction into the USA may have already happened earlier, during the 1700s (Wills and Begg, 1994). Since then, A. elatius has become naturalized in large parts of the USA and Canada providing forage for livestock and wildlife. Despite the fact that it is sensitive to grazing pressure, it has been used extensively in land revegetation efforts and seed is readily available and inexpensive (Plummer et al., 1968; Utah State University Extension, 2016). Both A. elatius and its subspecies are established in the USA; the former seems to have become much more widespread than subsp. bulbosum (New England Wild Flower Society, 2016).
Reference to the introduction of A. elatius into New Zealand as a beneficial grass was made as early as the 1880s when it was recommended for pasture use (Mackay, 1887; Wills and Begg, 1994). Here it was included in early experimental trials and pasture revegetation experiments (Earnshaw, 1910; MacPherson, 1912). In 1988, new accessions of false oat-grass originating from a wide range of countries were introduced to New Zealand provided by the US Department of Agriculture (Wills and Begg, 1994). A. elatius was, along with a wide range of grass species, introduced to Australia as a hay grass for pasture improvement in the 19th century. Although thought to have been introduced in the 1870s (Weed Futures, 2016), one of the first recorded collections is from South Australia in 1868 where it was not particularly common (Jessop et al., 2006).
Into Taiwan, China and Japan A. elatius was introduced as an ornamental grass and has subsequently escaped cultivation to become naturalized (Hsu et al., 2000; Mito and Uesugi, 2004; Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016).
Little is known about the time of introduction into other countries, its spread and whether introductions were accidental or done intentionally.
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|Australia||Europe||1800s||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Weed Futures (2016)||Introduced as pasture grass|
|New Zealand||Europe||1880s||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Wills and Begg (1994)||Introduced as pasture grass|
|USA||Europe||1700s||Crop production (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Wills and Begg (1994)||Introduced as pasture grass|
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
On a global scale, A. elatius has almost colonized all temperate geographical regions which can provide a suitable climate for this species. Therefore, the risk of further significant spread is comparably low. Exceptions may be islands within temperate climate zones, which have not been invaded by this species so far.
The exact distribution of the two separate subspecies remains unclear and there may be a continued risk that A. elatius subsp. bulbosum, which is a weed of arable land, may still become more widespread.
Until recently A. elatius has been deliberately imported as a fodder and pasture grass as well as an ornamental into a number of countries under legal licensing procedures. It is likely that this form of introduction will continue to a certain degree, particularly when the species is already widespread in the importing country.
HabitatTop of page
Arrhenatherum grasses are commonly adventive, mesophytic to xerophytic species of open habitats, particularly dry grasslands, edges of woods and disturbed ground. A. elatius is frequent to abundant in lightly grazed or mown grasslands, particularly in long-established hay meadows, but absent or rare in pasture. It tolerates occasional mowing and, in parts of Europe especially, hay meadows are often dominated by this species (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). In Britain it is particularly common on roadside verges and along the foot of hedgerows (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962; Watson and Dallwitz, 2015). Inside wooded areas it is restricted to regeneration glades and open scrub (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962).
In New Zealand, A. elatius is widespread along roadsides and railway lines from sea level to montane areas. Here it also inhabits clay banks, waste ground, paddocks and sometimes dune margins and can become a garden weed (Edgar and Connor, 2000). In Australia it is a weed of roadsides and perennial crops, particularly in areas of high rainfall (Simon, 2010, 2016). In South Australia, it has been recorded in irrigated orchards and along creeks, and as a weed in gardens (Jessop et al., 2006).
In North America, A. elatius has become naturalized in meadows, fields, open ground, waste places and roadsides from Newfoundland to British Columbia, south to Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico and California (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, 2006).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Cultivated / agricultural land||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Managed grasslands (grazing systems)||Principal habitat||Productive/non-natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Disturbed areas||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Rail / roadsides||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Managed||Urban / peri-urban areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural forests||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Natural grasslands||Principal habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal areas||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
|Littoral||Coastal dunes||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Natural|
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
A. elatius subsp. bulbosum is frequently considered a weed in arable crops (e.g. Langer and Hill, 1991). However, little information is available on the crop species affected and the degree of damage and yield losses caused. In Chile A. elatius is of particular significance in wheat (Ormeño and Díaz, 1995).
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Triticum aestivum (wheat)||Poaceae||Main|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
The base chromosome number of the genus Arrhenatherum is 7. A. elatius is a tetraploid with 2n = 4x = 28. In a survey of material of diverse British and European origin, only one aneuploid (2n = 27) was identified with certainty (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). No B-chromosomes are known. The mean number of quadrivalents per cell at meiosis is 3.3 (Pfitzenmeyer, 1959). Myers and Hill (1940) observed seven quadrivalents in a cell, suggesting that autotetraploidy can occur.
Crosses between A. elatius and Helictotrichon pubescens resulted in seeds but it is not known whether these were fertile (Ullmann, 1936). Watson and Dallwitz (2015) list intergeneric hybrids with Avena. Otherwise, attempts to cross A. elatius with other genera have been unsuccessful (Beddows, 1958, Pfitzenmeyer, 1959). It is not known whether A. elatius is inter-fertile with the other species of the genus Arrhenatherum (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962), although A. elatius and its subspecies bulbosum can interbreed freely (Preston and Rich, 1998).
A. elatius is wind-pollinated and self-fertilization may occur. Viability of seeds is generally good and germination rates are high but can vary between different genotypes. Generally, there is little dormancy and seeds can germinate soon after they mature (le Clerch, 1976). For A. elatius subsp. bulbosum vegetative reproduction by corms can be significant under moist soil and humid atmospheric conditions; otherwise reproduction is by seed alone (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962).
Physiology and Phenology
A. elatius is sensitive to low temperatures and exposure to wind, particularly on poor acid soils. In cold climates sexual reproduction is severely handicapped, and increasing temperature accelerates seed germination, vegetative growth and panicle production (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). A. elatius does not tolerate shade, and sea salt concentration in coastal habitats is also limiting (Gillham, 1957; Pfitzenmeyer, 1962).
A. elatius is a relatively long-lived perennial according to Van Eck et al. (2006), but others consider it to be a relatively short-lived perennial (e.g. Monsen et al., 2004). Stored under dry and cool conditions, its seeds retain their viability for at least five years (Schwendiman and Mullen, 1944; Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). However, in the field seeds may persist for only 1-2 years (le Clerch, 1976).
In the UK, and presumably other areas in Europe, A. elatius can be found in a wide range of plant communities, including in rank grassy vegetation (with species such as Festuca rubra, Dactylis glomerata, Heracleum sphondylium, Anthriscus sylvestris and Chaerophyllum temulum) in Rubus fruticosus - Holcus lanatus woodland underscrub; in Fraxinus excelsior - Sorbus aucuparia - Mercurialis perennis woodland; and in assemblages of the Arrhenatherion grassland community with Holcus lanatus, Heracleum sphondylium, Elymus repens, Calystegia sepium, Bromus sterilis, Cirsium arvense and Arctium minus, to name but a few (Rodwell, 1991).
A. elatius is most abundant on well-aerated, moderately deep neutral or near neutral (calcareous) soils of high to moderate fertility (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). It occurs on soils with a pH range of 5.0-8.0, with an optimum of 6.0-7.5 (Spurway, 1941).
In New Zealand A. elatius is best adapted to moderate-low rainfall areas (400-700 mm per annum) which are not too exposed or too cold. It seems to be well adapted to establish and spread under dry soil conditions which result from hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) invasion in mid-altitude grassland areas (Wills and Begg, 1994).
The highest altitude at which A. elatius has been found growing is 423 m in Britain (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962), 700 m in central Germany (Speidel, 1952), 1300 m in the Tatra Mountains of Slovakia (Pawlowski, 1931), 1920 m in the Austrian Alps (Zürn, 1949) and 3000 m in the Caucasus Mountains (Boissier, 1884). In its introduced range it has been recorded at elevations of 1400-1600 m in South Africa (Germishuizen and Meyer, 2003).
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Tolerated||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|BW - Desert climate||Tolerated||< 430mm annual precipitation|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Df - Continental climate, wet all year||Tolerated||Continental climate, wet all year (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, wet all year)|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Tolerated||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
|Dw - Continental climate with dry winter||Tolerated||Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Soil TolerancesTop of page
Natural enemiesTop of page
|Natural enemy||Type||Life stages||Specificity||References||Biological control in||Biological control on|
|Agromyza nigrociliata||Herbivore||Leaves||not specific|
|Agromyza rondensis||Herbivore||Leaves||not specific|
|Blumeria graminis||Pathogen||Whole plant||not specific|
|Cheilaria agrostidis||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Chromatomyia nigra||Herbivore||Leaves||not specific|
|Claviceps purpurea||Pathogen||Inflorescence/Seeds||not specific|
|Didymella graminicola||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Epichloe typhina||Pathogen||Stems||not specific|
|Gibberella zeae||Pathogen||Inflorescence/Stems||not specific|
|Lidophia graminis||Pathogen||Inflorescence/Leaves||not specific|
|Liriomyza phryne||Herbivore||Leaves||not specific|
|Liriomyza pusio||Herbivore||Leaves||to species|
|Metopolophium albidum||Herbivore||Leaves/Stems||not specific|
|Oscinella frit||Herbivore||Leaves/Stems||not specific|
|Pseudoseptoria donacis||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Puccinia brachypodii var. arrhenatheri||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Puccinia coronata||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Puccinia graminis f.sp. avenae||Herbivore||Leaves/Stems||not specific|
|Ramularia pusilla||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Septoria bromi var. arrhenatheri||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Stagonospora arrhenatheri||Pathogen||Leaves/Stems||not specific|
|Urocystis agropyri||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Urocystis avenae-elatioris||Pathogen||Leaves||to species|
|Ustilago avenae||Pathogen||Inflorescence||not specific|
|Ustilago striiformis||Pathogen||Leaves||not specific|
|Ustilentyloma brefeldii||Pathogen||Leaves||to species|
Notes on Natural EnemiesTop of page
A wide range of pathogens and mainly dipteran insects have been recorded from A. elatius but only few have this species as their main host or are host-specific (e.g. BioInfo UK, 2015).
The aphid Metopolophium albidum is mainly recorded from A. elatius, but when abundant during summer months it will also readily feed on other meadow grasses (Stroyan, 1950). This aphid species has also been identified as a potential vector of Barley yellow dwarf virus (BYDV) (A'Brook and Dewar, 1980). The chloropid fly Oscinella frit is a polyphagous herbivore of grasses but the species may consist of an aggregate of as yet undescribed taxa. One form seems to be specific to Arrhenatherum but details of its taxonomy and ecology are unknown (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962; Wetzel, 1967; Nartshuk and Andersson, 2013). In addition, the leaf-mining fly Liriomyza pusio (Agromyzidae) has so far only been recorded definitely from A. elatius (Spencer, 1972; Pitkin et al., 2016).
Most of the pathogens recorded from A. elatius are pathogenic on a wide range of grass genera (Vánky, 2012; Farr and Rossman, 2015). The apparently Arrhenatherum-specific Puccinia arrhenatheri [Puccinia brachypodii var. arrhenatheri] has Berberis vulgaris as alternative host (Urban and Marková, 1994; Naef et al., 2002). Currently only Stagonospora arrhenatheri, Urocystis avenae-elatioris and Ustilentyloma brefeldii have been reported solely from A. elatius as their host (Grove, 1935; Legon et al., 2005; Spooner and Legon, 2006).
A. elatius appears to be immune to both the milder and the more severe isolates of British Barley yellow dwarf virus (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962), but it is infected by the Tall oatgrass mosaic virus (TOgMV) (Hassan et al., 2014).
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
A. elatius declines when under grazing pressure but will return when grazing pressure is reduced. This applies particularly to A. elatius subsp. bulbosum (Robinson, 1988). As the plants begin to die off, the swollen nodes/corms detach from their stems and can be dispersed by wind or water to propagate in new areas.
Vector Transmission (Biotic)
In their study of seed dispersal by donkeys in a Belgian coastal dune nature reserve, Couvreur et al. (2005) estimated that seed of A. elatius could adhere to fur for over 1 h, giving a mean dispersal distance of nearly 200 m.
The most important means of dispersal of A. elatius is through human-mediated sowing of the species for fodder and pasture use and as an ornamental. Once introduced, the species can easily naturalize and spread (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962).
Pathway CausesTop of page
|Crop production||Prevalent cause of introduction||Yes||Yes||Pfitzenmeyer (1962)|
|Forage||Used as hay||Yes||Yes|
|Habitat restoration and improvement||Sown for erosion control||Yes||Yes||USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program (2006)|
|Hitchhiker||Can attach to animal fur for limited dispersal||Yes||Couvreur et al. (2005)|
|Ornamental purposes||Grown and sold as an ornamental||Yes||Yes||Hodgson (2005)|
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Impact SummaryTop of page
|Cultural/amenity||Positive and negative|
|Environment (generally)||Positive and negative|
Economic ImpactTop of page
False oat-grass has been introduced into the USA, Canada, Southern South America and New Zealand as a valuable fodder and pasture grass and is in most introduced regions still regarded as economically beneficial. In New Zealand it is considered a particularly important pasture grass in drought-prone areas where it is thought to mitigate the negative impact of the invasive introduced pasture weed Pilosella officinalis (Wills and Begg, 1994).
In Australia, A. elatius has been widely grown as a pasture grass and is considered beneficial as fodder and as an ornamental, but it is also considered as a weed of vegetable cultivation, disturbed areas, rotational crops, perennial crops and grasslands (HerbiGuide, 2015).
In Chile, A. elatius is considered a noxious weed in arable and grassland situations (Villanueva, 1966).
Environmental ImpactTop of page
Impact on Habitats
Probably the biggest environmental concern relating to the invasiveness of A. elatius is its impact on the composition and structure of native prairie grasslands in western North America (Wilson and Clark, 2001; Weber, 2003). A. elatius forms species poor clones that may cover large areas and displace native plant species and vegetation (Weber, 2003). Dead shoots of A. elatius are highly flammable and the grass resprouts quickly after burning. The result of fire suppression, however, has been the invasion of prairies and oak woodlands by native and non-native plant species, including the non-native grasses A. elatius and Brachypodium sylvaticum (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013).
Impact on Biodiversity
In western North America, structural changes in prairie grasslands caused by the invasion of A. elatius impact negatively on the reproduction of the endangered prairie butterfly Icaricia icarioides fenderi (Severns, 2008). This blue butterfly is endemic to the Willamette Valley of northwestern Oregon and is host-specific on the rare and threatened Kincaid’s lupin (Lupinus oreganus var. kincaidii). Parts of that prairie habitat are covered up to 100% by A. elatius, limiting the overall diversity of the sites and opportunities for growth of the lupin and butterfly populations (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2006).
The increase in alien species such as A. elatius in these western North American prairies has also resulted in less available prairie habitat overall, and the development of habitat that is avoided by the endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori [Occidryas editha taylori]) and threatened streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) (US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
|Threatened Species||Conservation Status||Where Threatened||Mechanism||References||Notes|
|Eremophila alpestris strigata (streaked horned lark)||USA ESA listing as threatened species||USA; Oregon; Washington||Competition (unspecified); Ecosystem change / habitat alteration||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
|Icaricia icarioides fenderi||USA ESA listing as endangered species||Oregon||Competition||Severns (2008)|
|Lupinus oreganus var. kincaidii (Kincaid's lupine)||NatureServe; USA ESA listing as endangered species||Oregon; Washington||Competition - monopolizing resources; Competition - strangling||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2006)|
|Occidryas editha taylori||USA ESA listing as endangered species||USA||Competition||US Fish and Wildlife Service (2013)|
Social ImpactTop of page
As a grass species producing pollen which often induces hay fever, asthma and conjunctivitis in sensitized individuals, A. elatius can be of concern for human health. The pollen is considered mildly allergenic (PollenLibrary.com, 2016) and produces the respective Group 1 and Group 5 grass allergens Arr e 1 and Arr e 5 (Steinman, 2016).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Highly adaptable to different environments
- Is a habitat generalist
- Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
- Benefits from human association (i.e. it is a human commensal)
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Ecosystem change/ habitat alteration
- Modification of fire regime
- Modification of successional patterns
- Monoculture formation
- Negatively impacts agriculture
- Negatively impacts human health
- Reduced native biodiversity
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Causes allergic responses
- Competition - monopolizing resources
- Competition - strangling
- Competition (unspecified)
- Interaction with other invasive species
- Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
- Difficult to identify/detect as a commodity contaminant
- Difficult/costly to control
UsesTop of page
False oat-grass can be used for livestock forage, particularly on marginal pastureland (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, 2006; GRIN, 2015). Grazing can begin in its second growing season, although it is not recommended as a major component of forage sowings as other grasses are superior for this purpose (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, 2006). The species recovers quickly after grazing. As a forage grass, A. elatius it is usually sown in mixtures with other species because, according to Afonin et al. (2016), it has a bitter taste making it unpalatable to cattle. Apart from forage, A. elatius is widely used for making hay.
Currently, A. elatius is being assessed for its potential suitability for biofuel production (Danielewicz et al., 2015).
In China, apart from its use as a forage, A. elatius has also been introduced as an ornamental garden plant (Flora of China Editorial Committee, 2016). In fact, A. elatius is the only species of the genus grown as a garden ornamental, and ‘Variegatum’ is the only cultivar developed; it is a subsp. bulbosum selection with longitudinal white margins on its grey-green leaves (Hodgson, 2005) and is widely planted worldwide.
False oat-grass is a useful conservation grass for erosion control (USDA-NRCS Plant Materials Program, 2006), and can mitigate the negative impact of invasive alien pasture weeds (Wills and Begg, 1994).
Uses ListTop of page
Animal feed, fodder, forage
- Fodder/animal feed
- Erosion control or dune stabilization
Human food and beverage
- Root crop
- garden plant
Similarities to Other Species/ConditionsTop of page
The genus Arrhenatherum includes only a handful of species, all of Eurasian and North African distribution. Other species of this genus include A. album, A. calderae, A. kotschyii, A. longifolium, A. palaestinum and A. pallens (Clayton et al., 2016). Some of these are very similar to A. elatius and local keys may need to be consulted.
A. elatius subsp. bulbosum is distinguished from A. elatius by the presence of corms at the base of the stem, by which it propagates. In A. elatius the lowest part of the stem is similar in diameter to the rest. The two taxa are not found growing together in the wild. For example, A. elatius subsp. bulbosum is often found in hedgebanks, on vegetated shingle along the coast and can also be a troublesome weed of arable fields in central southern England (Cussans and Morton, 1990; Preston and Rich, 1998), while A. elatius is common in grasslands (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). The easiest way to distinguish the two taxa is to uproot and examine culms from a clump. In subsp. bulbosum the lowest internodes are swollen and globose, 5-10 mm wide and distinctly broader than those above. In A. elatius the lowest internodes are cylindrical, 1-4 mm wide and similar to those above (Preston and Rich, 1998).
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures
Frequent mowing or cutting is generally not well tolerated by A. elatius and can, thus, be applied for its control. Repeated cutting decreases the persistency of most ecotypes and the species is usually absent from well-grazed swards (Rebischung et al., 1952; Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). However, in Europe some pastures on chalk soil contain plants adapted by natural selection to tolerate grazing (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962).
The sensitivity of A. elatius to mowing has been used for its control in its introduced range. Repeated cutting reduces its vitality and in the western USA, a late spring mowing with removal of cut material is recommended over a period of at least 3 years (PIER, 2016). During trials on prairie grassland in Oregon, annual mowing was found to be most effective at reducing the cover and flowering rate of A. elatius when done near the time of its flowering, in late spring to early summer. Based on these trial results, late spring mowing with removal of cut material, continued for more than 2-3 years, is recommended for restoring degraded, A. elatius-dominated prairies (Wilson and Clark, 2001).
The recovery of A. elatius after grazing or cutting close to the ground is limited due to only a few basal axillary buds being available to regenerate new shoots (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). False oat-grass also does not tolerate trampling and is absent from heavily trodden areas. It reacts positively to manuring (Spindler, 1954; Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). In Europe, if manuring ceases, A. elatius recedes and other grass species become dominant.
Corms of A. elatius subsp. bulbosum are dispersed in disturbed land by cultivation/ploughing so as an arable weed it is often difficult to eradicate (Pfitzenmeyer, 1962). However, corms brought to the surface dry and die. Therefore, for northwestern USA monthly tillage throughout the dry season is recommended to lower populations (Fitzsimmons and Burrill, 1993).
Smaller patches of A. elatius can be sprayed with grass-selective or non-selective herbicides (Weber, 2003). Herbicides available for the control of growing plants of this species include include imazabethabenz-methyl and flamprop-M-isobutyl, the former being more effective (Rees and Sherrott, 1991). However, a single herbicide application often has a limited effect against an established stand of A. elatius subsp. bulbosum because many corms do not produce leaves each year. Most of the poor control in the field from applications of glyphosate is probably due to dormant corms in the soil that are not connected with an emerged shoot and which can sprout and spread the next year (Tanphiphat, 1989). In northwestern USA the best time to apply systemic herbicides is when the plant sugars are moving into the storage area, during the beginning of May. In contrast only limited control is seen when the plants are sprayed in the autumn after regrowth has occurred. Glyphosate is effective against emerged plants at the six-seven-leaf stage (Fitzsimmons and Burrill, 1993). Clodinafop-propargyl, a herbicide for the selective control of grass weeds, failed to control tuber oat grass but did temporarily suppress its growth (Ormeño and Díaz, 1995).
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
Although recognized as an invasive species, particularly of North American prairies, because of its value as a fodder and pasture grass, there seems to be little research into the invasiveness of A. elatius and how to control it. Any research on control is mainly aimed at eliminating A. elatius subsp. bulbosum as a weed from arable crops.
ReferencesTop of page
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04/12/15 Original text by:
Norbert Maczey, CABI, UK
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