David Amme, author of “Grassland Heritage” in Bay Nature’s April-June 2004 issue, called purple needlegrass “the undisputed candidate for official state grass.” Now that may soon become literally as well as figuratively true: State Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, is sponsoring legislation to make purple needlegrass California’s official state grass.
The long-lived, drought-tolerant purple needlegrass, or Nassella pulchra, is one of the key components of California’s native grasslands, which were widespread in the Bay Area and beyond before introduced annuals from Europe took over. Nasella pulchra can grow over the full length of California, and if planted more widely, it could reduce water use, prevent soil erosion, and even crowd out invasive weeds, thus reducing harmful pesticide applications or costly hand-weeding programs.
If the legislation is successful, purple needlegrass would join other official state symbols like the California poppy (state flower), serpentine (the state rock, also featured in the April-June 2004 Bay Nature) and, according to the Sacramento Bee, even San Joaquin soil, which covers a half million acres of prime farmland and was declared California’s official state soil in 1997.
The legislation, Senate Bill 1226, has been backed by California Native Grass Society, the California Native Plant Society, and several other organizations.
Support letters can be sent to State Sen. Michael Machado, D-Linden, State Capitol, Room 3086, Sacramento, CA, 95814; or Senator.Machado@sen.ca.gov