Tuesday, May 23, 2006

On April 12, 2004, the Carnegie Institution officially dedicated the new home of the Department of Global Ecology. The 11,000 square foot research complex is a high-performance building with an emphasis on energy efficiency, water conservation, use of recycled and sustainable materials, and a safe and healthy working environment. Landscaping is primarily of California native bunchgrasses. The landscape architect is Lutsko Associates, San Francisco.
The general intent was that of creating a landscape in stride with the local environmental conditions. This would, therefore, be inherently drought tolerant and low maintenance, and increase habitat potential by utilizing native plants. In short, creating a place for people by utilizing native materials.
Ron Lutsko, Jr., Principal of Lutsko Associates

Grasses blooming May 22, 2006

Deschampsia caespitosa, tufted hairgrass
Elymus glaucus, Western blue wildrye
Elymus multisetus, big squirreltail
Festuca californica, California fescue
Festuca idahoensis, Idahoe fescue
Hesperostipa comata (syn. Stipa comata), needle-and-thread, appears on the original planting list, but the ornamental Stipa tenuissima was evidently substituted.
Hordeum brachyantherum, California meadow barley
Koeleria macrantha, june grass
Melica californica, California melic
Muhlenbergia rigens, Deer Grass (large tussocks, leaves to 3 feet long, with narrow flowering heads)
Nassella cernua, nodding needlegrass
Nassella lepida, foothill needlegrass
Nassella pulchra, purple needlegrass (California state grass)
Poa secunda, one-sided bluegrass

June grass is near the steps left of the front entrance looking out from the building, with Poa secunda and Nassella. The narrow-leaved bunchgrass Festuca idahoensis is normally found in the Bay Area in the wild at higher elevations (like Los Trancos Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Palo Alto, San Bruno Mt., Berkeley hills), on the coast, or other locations with a coastal influence. Some native populations, including those growing in the Los Trancos Preserve, have culms (flowering stalks) that show a purplish tinge at flowering. This feature is seen in some of the plants in the Carnegie garden. The cultivated variety 'Eagle Peak' from the Warner Mountains in Modoc County also has this character. The 2 formal plantings of gray-leaved grasses, just beginning to bloom, may be Festuca 'Siskiyou Blue,' or a selection of Festuca glauca, sold in many nurseries. Tufted hairgrass, Deschampsia caespitosa (illus. right), forms a small but conspicuous patch near the California fescue on the north side of the Global Ecology building, near the front entrance, and also in a corner of the adjacent plot. This grass, in an earlier version of this page, was incorrectly listed as the coastal form of tufted hairgrass ssp. holciformis, whose inflorescence remains narrow, branches upright/appressed. Nodding needlegrass (Nassella cernua) is similar to purple needlegrass (N. pulchra) except its florets and awns, while about the same length as that of N. pulchra, are noticeably finer. Also, its spikelets can have a pinkish tinge.

The native grasses in the Carnegie garden span a range of cultural requirements of sun and water and tolerances. This information can be found in the recently published Wild Lilies, Irises and Grasses: Gardening with California Monocots, by Nora Harlow and Kristin Jakob.

In addition to the expected weedy annual grasses* and forbs, two perennials have become established in the landscaped area: English plantain throughout and tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea). The latter grows in the corner of the bed that is opposite and left of the courtyard -- looking out from the main entrance -- of Global Ecology. It has dark green smooth basal and cauline leaves and short lemma awms (about 1 mm long). Two other perennial naturalized grasses were also observed and weeded: Agrostis viridis, water bent, and Bromus catharticus, rescuegrass. Phalaris aquatica, Harding grass, is found just on the border of the landscaped area.

* Avena barbata, Bromus diandrus, Bromus hordeaceous, Bromus madritensis madritensis, Hordeum murinum, Lolium multiflorum, Poa annua, Polypogon monspelensis, Vulpia myuros. V. bromoides is no doubt also present.

Observations by S. Yang and J. Rawlings; contact rawlings@stanford.edu

Illustrations: Deschamspsia caespitosa (above) and Lolium multiflorum (left) from
Manual of the Grasses of the United States, 2 ed. [PDF].