• Giant Sequoia Trees

    Sequoia & Kings Canyon

    National Parks California

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  • The Generals Highway "Road Between the Parks" is OPEN

    The section of road between Lodgepole (Sequoia) and Grant Grove (Kings Canyon) is open. Call 559-565-3341 (press 1, 1) for 24-hour road updates.

  • Be Prepared! Tire Chains or Cables May Be Required in the Parks at Any Time

    All vehicles must carry chains or cables when entering a chain-restricted area. It's the law (CA Vehicle Code, Section 605, Sections 27450-27503). Road conditions may change often. For road conditions, call 559-565-3341 (press 1, 1). More »

  • You May Have Trouble Calling Us

    We are experiencing technical problems receiving incoming phone calls. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please send us an email to SEKI_Interpretation@nps.gov or check the "More" link for trip-planning information. More »

  • Vehicle Length Limits in Sequoia National Park (if Entering/Exiting Hwy 198)

    Planning to see the "Big Trees" in Sequoia National Park? If you enter/exit via Hwy. 198, please pay close attention to vehicle length advisories for your safety and the safety of others. More »

Velvet Grass

 

Velvet grass (Holcus lanatus) is a perennial grass, native to Europe, that was introduced to California as livestock feed. It escaped from cultivation and has become a weed species, particularly in the California Coast Ranges. In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, it is found in moist meadows and riparian sites in only a few locations, where it establishes dense patches that exclude native vegetation. It has become a particular problem in Yosemite National Park in recent years, forming dominant stands in wilderness locations.

Identification

Velvet grass is a tufted perennial up to 1 meter (3 feet) tall, with closely clustered stems. The entire plant is grayish and velvety, covered with fine, soft hair. Leaves are broad, long, and pointed at the apex, and leaf sheaths are open at the base. Flower panicles, 3 to 6 inches long, are plume-like, dense, pale-green to purplish, and hairy.

 
Distinguishing features of velvet grass are the purplish coloration on the panicles and veins of the sheaths, soft hairs all over, lack of rhizomes, and the second floret of each spikelet, which has a small, curved, hook-like awn.

Distinguishing features of velvet grass are the purplish coloration on the panicles and veins of the sheaths, soft hairs all over, lack of rhizomes, and the second floret of each spikelet, which has a small, curved, hook-like awn.

The Nature Conservancy, UCDavis photo

Look-Alikes

There are numerous grasses, sedges, and related plants that can appear similar to velvet grass. Distinguishing features are the purplish coloration on the panicles and veins of the sheaths, soft hairs all over, lack of rhizomes, and the second floret of each spikelet, which has a small, curved, hook-like awn.

Natural History

The main means by which velvet grass is spread is through seed production. It flowers from June to August and is wind pollinated. Its seed is dispersed in bird droppings, dung, mud, and soil, in which seeds remain viable for over 10 years. Its fibrous roots are relatively shallow.

In Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks velvet grass occurs generally in wet areas at mid elevations (5,000 to 7,000 feet elevation, though it may occur lower or higher). It has been detected in meadows in Grant Grove and Cedar Grove, and in wilderness locations in the Kern Canyon (Kern Ranger Station pastures, Lower Funston meadow, and Upper Funston meadow).

Management

In 2006 park staff began controlling velvet grass in wilderness locations in the Kern Canyon, and in 2007 control began in Grant Grove and Cedar Grove. Plants are pulled by hand, using small hand-tools to remove the roots. For dense patches in non-wilderness locations, or where velvet grass co-occurs with reed canary grass, approved glyphosate herbicides are sometimes used. A top priority beginning in 2007 is early detection of this species in wilderness locations, particularly those grazed by pack stock.

Did You Know?

Bootprint on pink algae in snow.

Patches of colorful pink snow in the High Sierra are actually colonies of snow algae — Chlamydomonas nivalis. Unlike most species of fresh-water algae, it thrives in freezing water. Compressing the red snow with your boot increases the intensity of the color. Warning: Do not eat it!