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.