Purple Needle grass

The official State Grass designated in 2004, is Nassella pulchra, or Purple needlegrass, as it is most commonly known. Purple needlegrass is a medium-large, long-lived bunchgrass well adapted to clay soils. It is the most widespread native bunchgrass and its growing range is from the Oregon border into northern Baja California.

The seed of this grass species was one of several used by many California Native American communities as a food source. It remains to this day as an important food source for California’s wildlife. During the period of Mexican control of California, Purple needlegrass was used for cattle grazing to support the cowhide and tallow industry. Today, this grass continues to provide forage for California’s important cattle industry.

Once established, Purple needlegrass is tolerant of summer drought and heat. It can live more than 150 years and has been used in projects such as habitat restoration, erosion and levee control.