This community/habitat type consists primarily of non-native annual grasses and forbs. Annual grasslands are present in the alluvial plain and lower foothills portions of Stanford. Non-native species dominating these areas include ripgut brome, Italian rye, wall barley, storksbill, bristly ox-tongue, purple star thistle, yellow star thistle, common groundsel, geranium, and milk thistle. Several native grasses, most notably purple needlegrass, are not uncommon in some areas of the grasslands at Stanford. Native forbs that commonly occur within this community include: California man-root, California buttercup, blue-eyed grass, terrestrial brodiaea, blue dicks, Ithuriel’s spear, johnny-jump-up, suncup, and mule’s ear. Occasional individual oak trees or small, open-canopied groupings of oaks occur within this community type.

Annual grasslands at Stanford provide habitat for a diversity of terrestrial wildlife. Amphibians include western toad, Pacific treefrog, and California tiger salamander. Reptiles such as the western fence lizard, gopher snake, western racer and common gartersnake also occur within the grasslands at Stanford. The common gartersnake found at Stanford is an intergrade form between the San Francisco gartersnake found to the north and west, and the red-sided gartersnake found to the south and east.

A variety of bird species are at least seasonally present in the grasslands at Stanford. Avian seedeaters, including western meadowlark, nest in grazed annual grasslands, while other grassland species, such as red-winged blackbirds, are more likely to nest in taller ungrazed vegetation. A number of other species, including American goldfinch, California towhee, loggerhead shrike, and northern mockingbird, nest in scattered shrubs throughout annual grasslands. Raptors, including white-tailed kite, red-tailed hawk, barn owl, and American kestrel, nest in nearby trees and forage in grasslands. Burrowing owls have not been observed nesting at Stanford for nearly a century, but overwinter in several locations on campus. Aerial foragers, including northern rough-winged swallow, tree swallow, violet-green swallow, cliff swallow, barn swallow, and white-throated swift, also may frequent annual grasslands. Great blue herons and great egrets frequently are observed foraging in the grasslands of Stanford.

Small mammals that forage on the plants found in this habitat type include deer mouse, western harvest mouse, California vole, California ground squirrel, and Botta’s pocket gopher. Larger mammals, such as bobcat, coyote, opossum, raccoon, striped skunk, black-tailed jackrabbit, and black-tailed deer, also use the annual grasslands at Stanford, though other habitats are generally required for cover. Badgers are virtually absent from Stanford and are rarely sighted on the San Francisco Peninsula. Mountain lions are occasionally reported from the grasslands, riparian zones, and woodlands of the lower foothills region.

Click here to view images of annual grasslands.

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