Purple needlegrass may soon gain recognition as one of California’s official state symbols, like the golden poppy, our state flower since 1903. For native grass advocates, “the hope is that a new state symbol might draw some public attention to these magnificent perennial grasses,” says Lenora Timm, treasurer and secretary for the Quail Ridge Wilderness Conservancy, based in Davis. Several conservation organizations are behind the new legislation, which they hope will give a boost to a native, drought-tolerant species that has suffered in the face of urban encroachment and invasive exotic annual grasses. One place to find purple needlegrass, and 14 other species of thriving native bunchgrasses, is the 2,000-acre Quail Ridge Reserve in Napa County. How did Quail Ridge, now a University of California natural reserve, escape an exotic grass invasion? Ironically, the damming of Putah Creek to form Lake Berryessa in 1958 isolated the rugged terrain from both invasives and excessive human use. You can join the Quail Ridge Wilderness Conservancy for monthly docent-led hikes through the reserve on July 10, August 21, September 11, and October 9. (The reserve is closed to the public at other times.) Even late in the summer, most of the bunchgrasses will still boast a perennial green. And in the evening, you can use the conservancy’s ultrasonic device to listen to bats while they fly and feed. The afternoon/evening walks are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.quailridge.org. To sign up for a hike, call the conservancy at (530)758-1387 at least one day in advance. For more on the needlegrass legislation, visit the California Native Grass Association online at www.cnga.org.
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