CPC Plant Profile: California Orcutt Grass
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Plant Profile

California Orcutt Grass (Orcuttia californica)

This shot shows the flowering plant on a dry mud flat. Photo Credit: Travis Columbus
Description
  • Global Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Poaceae
  • State: CA
  • Nature Serve ID: 134354
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

Orcuttia californica is a bright green, aromatic, and densely tufted annual grass. Its pink flowers occur in dense spikes and bloom from April to June (Hickman 1993). This species was once commonly found in the volcanic terrace and vernal pool system in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego Counties in southern California. Today, most of these vernal pools systems have been drained and or filled, and resulting changes in local hydrology patterns have limited this vernal pool-dependent species to only a few locations where vernal pools have not yet been disturbed.. During the wet season, Orcuttia produce a set of leaves that float on the pool surface. After the pools dry in the summer, a new set of foliage emerges and lasts for 1-2 months until flowering and fruiting are complete (Keeley 1988)

Participating Institutions
Updates
Center for Plant Conservation
  • 08/19/2021
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

In 2021, CPC contracted San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to recollect seed from a population currently held in long term orthodox seed storage as part of an IMLS-funded seed longevity experiment. The National Laboratory for Genetic Resources Preservation will evaluate how germination tested viability and RNA Integrity of seed lots decline over time in storage.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global holds 3 accessions of Orcuttia californica in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 70068 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 09/01/2020
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

Based on an September 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden holds 7 accessions of Orcuttia californica in orthodox seed collection. There are as many as 178148 seeds of this species in their collection - although some may have been used for curation testing or sent to back up.

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, San Diego Zoo Global has collected 3 seed accessions of Orcuttia californica from 2 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 159 maternal plants

  • 08/05/2020
  • Seed Collection

Based on an August 2020 extract of the California Plant Rescue Database, California Botanic Garden has collected 5 seed accessions of Orcuttia californica from 5 plant occurrences listed in the California Natural Diversity Database. These collections together emcompass 32 maternal plants

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

This vernal pool endemic is variable in number from year to year. It is only known from southern California and adjacent Baja. Many sites, if not most, are extirpated. A few sites are located on the Santa Rosa Plain owned by TNC or affiliates. Additional sites, further south, need protection. Threats over the years that have helped extirpated the plant include development, agriculture, OHVs, border patrol use, and roads.

  • 01/01/2010

More than 90% of the original vernal pool habitat has been destroyed by urbanization and agricultural development. Other threats include mowing, livestock grazing, off-road vehicle recreation, trash dumping and invasion of weedy, non-native plants.

  • 01/01/2010

The California Department of Fish and Game labels this species as declining throughout its range (CDFG 2002).

  • 01/01/2010

In 1993, Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden created 30 small vernal pools as part of their plant display as well as part of a long term gene flow study by the Garden's Research Department and Endangered Species Program. Artificial vernal pools have also been created by the University of California's Botanic Garden. Because these pools require careful tending it has been concluded that recreated pools are not self-sustaining and therefore not a viable option to replace the loss of naturally occurring vernal pools. Research in germination has shown that Orcuttia californica is less dependent upon anaerobic conditions than another annual grass, Tuctoria greenei (Keeley 1988) and has also indicated that fungi may play an important role in stimulating germination (Griggs 1976, Keeley 1988).

  • 01/01/2010

In July 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to map critical habitat for 15 endangered and threatened species that are dependent on vernal pool wetlands in California. The critical habitat designation will add protection to California's remaining vernal pool habitat.

  • 01/01/2010

Population monitoring and reproductive/seed ecology will benefit conservation efforts. All remaining populations should be protected

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Photos
Nomenclature
Taxon Orcuttia californica
Authority Vasey
Family Poaceae
CPC Number 3038
ITIS 41970
USDA ORCA
Common Names California orcutt grass | California Orcutt grass
Associated Scientific Names Orcuttia californica | Orcuttia californica var. californica
Distribution Great Central Valley in California (Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego counties). (CDFG 2002)
State Rank
State State Rank
California S1
Habitat

Orcuttia californica is restricted to deep pools in the vernal pool system. (Dudeck and Associates Inc. 1999)

Ecological Relationships

Fungi may play a role stimulating germination of this Orcuttia californica (Grigs 1976, Keeley 1988).

Pollinators
Common Name Name in Text Association Type Source InteractionID

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