Avena fatua L.
Poaceae (Grass Family)
Annual, culms stout, to 1.9 m. tall; blades 4-8 mm. wide; panicle loose, open,
with horizontal branches; spikelets usually 3-fld.; florets readily falling from
glumes; glumes ca. 2.5 cm. long, 5-7 veined, the rachilla and lower part of the
lemma with long stiff, mostly brownish hairs; lemmas nerved above, ca. 2 cm.
long, generally glabrous on back to soft-hairy in lower third, with acuminate
teeth; awn stout, geniculate, twisted below, 3-4 cm. long.
Waste and cultivated places as a common weed in California Floristic
Latin, avena, an old name for
oats and fatuus, simple.
(Jaeger 32,101). John Johnson suggests that Linnaeus possibly chose the name
because of the simple structure of the spikelets and inflorescence.
Johnson used this plant to teach grass structure because of its
Very common in the study area. Photographed
on the west side of the Delhi Ditch. (my
Oats, possibly introduced by the Spanish with wheat seed brought to the
Missions. (Heizer & Elsasser
Oats were gathered by California. Indian tribes and made into meal.
The seeds were crushed lightly to loosen the chaff, which was winnowed
out and then ground into meal. (Clarke
has great value as a forage plant; in certain parts of the State it yields a
considerable amount of wild hay. However,
the plant is often troublesome as a weed in grain fields.
Wild Oats grows on many different types of soil such as clay loam, sandy
loam and stiff adobe. (Robbins et
al. 57). To
clean Wild Oats, parch the seeds in a basket using a hot stone.
(lecture by Charlotte Clarke, author of Useful
and Edible Plants of California, April 1987. Used for indigestion and
constipation by taking a tablespoon of oatmeal and stirring it slowly in a pint
of boiling water for about five minutes, adding a little salt to suit the taste. One herbal recommends this drink for persons "who seek
to retain their youth." The
use of honey to sweeten the drink is permissible.
The drink is recommended as a splendid tonic to the general system and is
stated to be beneficial to the sexual system. A poultice of oatmeal helps relieve itchy skin and ulcers and
is reported to be used extensively in relieving sore conditions in the area of
the anus and to dissolve hard formations. Oatmeal
has many elements that have antiseptic properties, and when taken frequently as
a food, is a natural preventative for contagious diseases.
Other uses for oats include its use as a nerve tonic, as a restorative in
nervous prostration and following exhaustion as a result of diseases accompanied
by fever. The presence of
phosphorus in oats makes this product valuable for the formation of brain and
nerve tissue. An authoritative work
on herbs states that oats "seem to exert a very beneficial action upon the
heart muscles." Oats have been recommended for relieving spasmodic
conditions of the bladder and ureter. Because
of the beneficial effects upon the nervous system, the consumption of oats in the form of oatmeal or as a fluid extract has been
reported to facilitate sleep. It
has been reported that boiling oats in vinegar and then applying the resulting
oatmeal mash to the face or other parts of the body will remove spots.
One of the effects of oats is reported as beneficial in cases of
involuntary loss of seminal fluid. (Kadans
156-158). Oats aggravates acne.
Reported by dermatologists who advise acne patients to avoid oats in any
form. (John Johnson).
Avena species have been known
to cause hay fever and asthma. (Fuller
nigra has been shown to be markedly toxic to the common annual grasses such
as Wild Oat, Avena fatua, and species
Water soluble plant toxins are produced from the dead plant material of B.
Nigra. (Fuller 365).
The Cahuillas, who inhabited the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains
and the Colorado Desert, used A. fatua.
While not native, this plant was introduced as early as 1835, the seeds
were gathered from July through September, parched, ground in flour, and mixed
with other wild seeds in mush. Wild
oats are still used as a breakfast food by some Cahuilla and are believed to
contribute to high energy. (Bean
and Saubel 46).
Delfina Cuero, a Kumeyaay or Southern Diegueno Indian made the following
comment about Avena fatua in her autobiography:
"Kumeyaay collected the seeds and ground them for pinole."
(Shipek 86). Wild
Oats has many medicinal uses including use as a tonic, laxative and nerve
stimulant. It is used in chorea,
epilepsy and nervous exhaustion. The
semimatured grain, when in “milk” is collected and the unripe-seed tincture
prepared. Method A (1 part by
weight of the fresh plant, just gathered and rinsed, chop into small pieces,
place in a clean glass jar with a good lid, cover the chopped herbs with 2 parts
of 95% ethanol, screw on the lid after making sure the herbs are compressed
enough in the jar that the alcohol comes up to the top of the chopped herb. Set
aside for 7 to 10 days). Since this is the only form in which the medicine
works, if you live where no 95% alcohol is available to you, use 50% vodka (100
proof but only 50% alcohol). A. sativa can be used in the same manner, however A.
barbata does not make good medicine. (Moore, Medicinal
Plants of the Desert and Canyon West 129).
Hybridizes with A. sativa and A. sterilis. (Hickman,
Hickman, Ed. 1236; Munz, Flora So.
Calif. 947; Robbins et al. 57; Roberts 45.
Jan 2 84 #2,3,4.
Identity: by R. De Ruff.
First Found: January 1984.
Computer Ref: Plant Data 39.
Have plant specimen.
Last edit 11/26/04.
January Photo January Photo