Author: D.B. Hoare
Common Ehrharta; veldtgrass, perennial veldtgrass.
Bambusoideae; Oryzodae; Ehrharteae. There are 27 species of Ehrharta of which 23 are indigenous to southern Africa and all except 1 variety of 1 species is endemic.
|Origin and geographic distribution
The genus Ehrharta Thunb. is distributed within the cool temperate
parts of southern Africa, south-western, southern and eastern Australia,
Tasmania, New Zealand and Malesia (Gibbs-Russell & Ellis 1987). In southern
Africa Ehrharta can be divided into seven species groups: Setacea,
Capensis, Erecta, Calycina, Ramosa, Dura and Villosa.
is a very variable rhizomatous perennial, sometimes an annual that grows
300-1800 mm tall. The leave blades are filiform, up to 7 mm wide, flat
or rolled. The inflorescence is an open panicle of hairy spikelets. The
inflorescence and culms are usually purple, especially in summer. Spikelets
are 4.0-8.5 mm long. The sterile lemmas are similar in texture and are
hairy with long hairs. The first is more than two-thirds the length of
the second, which has an acute tip or is truncate or has a mucro arising
abruptly from the central nerve, and has a pair of ear-like appendages
from the base.
A highly palatable drought-resistant grass that has potential as a pasture species. It is one of the only winter-rainfall grass species from southern Africa that is even potentially valuable as grazing (Gibbs-Russell et al. 1989). It has been used in the past to rehabilitate mine dumps in South Africa. It is cultivated in Australia and California as drought-resistant pasture. It is used in range reseeding in California and is also intended as a species to be used in the revegetation of disturbed areas (Magness et al. 1971). It is a persistent weed in some parts of Australia, and in California it is invading destructively into natural maritime desert scrub.
The genus Ehrharta has a base chromosome number of 12 (Spies et al. 1989). E. calycina is highly variable and shows polyploidy and aneuploidy. 2n = 24-28, 30.
|Leaf blade anatomy
C3 photosynthetic pathway.
None reported and considered to be non-toxic.
Ehrharta calycina occurs in a wide range of habitats in the
winter rainfall and temperate summer rainfall regions of South Africa.
The climate is temperate and Mediterranean throughout the natural range
of the species with annual rainfall varying from less than 200 to over
800 mm per annum. It was introduced to Davis, California as a drought-resistant
grass for rangelands, but it was unable to withstand heavy grazing. It
is now common on the coastal sand dunes at San Luis Obispo and San Diego.
It flowers in the spring. On Nalf San Clemente Island in California, where
it has become invasive, attempts are being made to eradicate it using
2% glyphosphate solution (Soil Ecology and Research Group
Found mostly in sandy soil, but utilizes a variety of other habitats.
|Propagation and planting
E. calycina is propagated by seed for which there may be as many as 725,000 per pound (USDA, NRCS. 2002). The soil seed bank density of E. calycina is nearly 75 000 seeds m -2 (Smith et al. 1999).
|Growth and development
Usually flowers from spring to early summer, but may flower at any other time of the year. In California flowering occurs in spring (Magness et al. 1971). The fruiting and seeding period begins and ends in summer. E. calycina has a low tolerance of anaerobic conditions, drought, salinity, soil CaCO3 and shade (USDA, NRCS. 2002), but has a moderate tolerance of fire. It becomes dormant in winter under heavy frosts.
|Diseases and pests
The seed spread rate, seedling vigour and vegetative spread rate of E. calycina in California are all moderate (USDA, NRCS. 2002). The vegetative growth rate is rapid. E. calycina does not fix nitrogen.
GIBBS-RUSSELL, G.E. and ELLIS, R.P. 1987. Species groups in Ehrharta (Poaceae) in southern Africa. Bothalia 17: 51-65.
GIBBS-RUSSELL, G.E., WATSON, L., KOEKEMOER, M., SMOOK, L. BARKER, N.P., ANDERSON, H.M., DALLWITZ, M.J. 1991. Grasses of southern Africa. Memoirs of the Botanical Survey of South Africa, No. 58, National Botanical
SPIES, J.J., SAAYMAN, E.J.L., VOGES, S.P., and DAVIDSE, G. 1989. Chromosome studies on African Plants. 9. Chromosome numbers in Ehrharta (Poaceae: Ehrhartaea). Bothalia 19: 125-132.
MAGNESS, J.R., MARKLE, G.M. and COMPTON, C.C. 1971. Food and feed crops of the United States. Interregional Research Project IR-4, IR Bul. 1 (Bul. 828 New Jersey Agr. Expt. Sta.).
SMITH, M.A., BELL, D.T. and LONERAGAN, W.A. 1999. Comparative seed germination ecology of Austrostipa compressa and Ehrharta calycina (Poaceae) in a Western Australian Banksia woodland. Australian Journal of Ecology 24 (1): 35-42.
USDA, NRCS. 2002. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.