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The Mark of Zorro: Effects of the Exotic Annual Grass Vulpia myuros on California Native Perennial Grasses


Address correspondence to C. S. Brown, email


Native perennial grasses were once common in California prairies that are now dominated by annual grasses introduced from Europe. Competition from exotics may be a principal impediment to reestablishment of native perennial grasses. Introduced annual grasses, such as Vulpia myuros (zorro fescue), are often included with native perennial species in revegetation seed mixtures used in California. To examine the potential suppressive effect of this graminoid, we evaluated the growth and performance of a mixture of California native perennial grasses and resident weeds when grown with varying densities of V. myuros. The annual fescue exhibited a strongly plastic growth response to plant density, producing similar amounts of above-ground biomass at all seeding densities. Perennial grass seedling survival and above- ground biomass decreased and individuals became thinner (i.e., reduced weight-to-height ratio) with increasing V. myuros seeding density. V. myuros also significantly suppressed above-ground biomass and densities of weeds and had a more negative effect on weed densities than on native perennial grass densities. Biomass of native grasses and weeds was not differentially affected by increasing densities of V. myuros. Overall, because V. myuros significantly reduced the survival and performance of the mixture of native perennial grasses and this effect increased with increasing V. myuros density, we conclude that including this exotic annual in native seed mixtures is counterproductive to restoration efforts.