Hairy Orcutt Grass (Orcuttia pilosa)
Hairy Orcutt grass is a California endangered species, which means that killing or possessing the plant is prohibited by the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This species is also listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act. Hairy Orcutt grass is an annual herb that is found in Central Valley vernal pools. At the time of this webpage posting the California Natural Diversity Database lists 18 occurrences of hairy Orcutt grass that are presumed to still exist, and 15 occurrences that are considered to be extirpated or possibly extirpated. The remaining known extant occurrences of hairy Orcutt grass occur in two areas: Glenn and Tehama Counties in the north, and Madera and Stanislaus Counties farther to the south.
Like other vernal pool species, the biggest threat to and reason for the decline of hairy Orcutt grass is habitat loss and fragmentation caused by agricultural conversion and development. Although some of the remaining populations of hairy Orcutt grass, particularly in the north, are protected from agricultural conversion and development, these activities continue to threaten populations that are on private land. Development can cause the direct removal of vernal pool habitat, and development adjacent to vernal pools can also indirectly affect habitat by altering hydrology and creating new sources of runoff into the ecosystem. Other significant threats include damage from nearby herbicide applications, contamination of groundwater, inappropriate grazing, invasive native and nonnative plants, vandalism, recreational activities, and climate change. Occurrences that have few individuals are also threatened by low genetic diversity, and are more vulnerable to random naturally-occurring events.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a Recovery Plan for Vernal Pool Ecosystems of California and Southern Oregon in 2005, which includes hairy Orcutt grass. Habitat protection and management is a key element in the recovery of hairy Orcutt grass as well as other vernal pool endemic species, and should continue to be pursued along with monitoring, status surveys, research, and outreach.
CDFW has contributed to the following projects related to hairy Orcutt grass with support from the federal Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund:
- Vernal pool ecology and vernal pool landscape management as illustrated by rare macroinvertebrates and vascular plants at Vina Plains Preserve, Tehama County, California
- Rare plant habitat restoration at Vina Plains Preserve (Tehama County)
CDFW may issue permits for hairy Orcutt grass pursuant to CESA, and you can learn more about the California laws protecting hairy Orcutt grass and other California native plants. Populations of hairy Orcutt grass occur in CDFW’s Northern Region, North Central Region, and Central Region. More information is also available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Species Profile for Orcuttia pilosa.
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