This morning I visited a friend at the Urban Life Center at 1031 Franklin Street. I arrived a little early so I poked around the back parking area and checked out the grasses growing next to the lot. I saw tall fescue and what I now think was slender wild oat or Avena barbata. At first I thought it was Purple Needlegrass (the California state grass), but spending a bit of time with on-line and book sources, I now think it is slender wild oat. I went running in the Presidio this afternoon and suprisingly noticed a patch of slender wild oat growing next to Presidio Avenue.
Slender wild oat (shown above along a highway) is far different than the ordinary wild oat (Avena fatua), which seems to be more common and far more scraggly than Avena fatua. The seedhead of slender wild oat is very attenuated and from it projects a long (2-inch) awn that looks like an antenna from a large insect. Slender wild oat was brought to the region from either Russian or Spanish settlers. It was an important presence in the landscape before the Civil War and was often noted by early visitors to the state.
As is often the case, the John Rawlings website, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, has a wonderful entry on Avena barbata.
St. Mark's Lutheran Church at 1111 O'Farrell Street built the Urban Life Center in 1964. The Center was built at the same time as the Martin Luther Tower--a 12-story senior housing project. The Urban Life Center was originally built to be a community center for the neighborhood and as a senior center for tower residents. It now has a wider use, both as offices for the church and as rental office space. The Urban Life Center is a classic mid-1960s building, comprised mostly of steel and concrete. This building would look at home at any college campus built around the time of the Vietnam War--including buidings at Stanford (especially the Stanford bookstore) as well as much of UC Irvine.
19 October 2007