Poverty oatgrass

Prepared by Jennifer L. D’Appollonio, Assistant Scientist, University of Maine, Orono, ME 04469. Updated February 2018.

Scientific name: Danthonia spicata (L.) P. Beauv. ex Roem. & Schult.

Common name(s): poverty oatgrass, wild oat-grass, poverty grass, poverty wild oatgrass, bonnet-grass, turkey-strip, wildcat grass, wire-grass, old fog

Links: USDA PLANTS Profile, NPIN Profile, Go Botany

Images: (to see enlargements [PC]: click on image, then right click and choose “view image”)


– perennial

– reproduces by seed. Flowers from July to September.

Stems 1′ to 2 1/2′ tall and smooth. Sheathes shorter than the internodes. Leaf blades are rough, 5″ to 8″ long and 1/8″ wide or less. Ligules are very short. Seed heads are 1″ to 2″ long. The bent, spreading awn closely twisted at the base.

– reproduces by seed

-fibrous roots without rhizomes or stolons

– may be confused with D. compressa; see left sidebar on Go Botany webpage


  • man-made or disturbed areas
    • cliffs, grasslands, meadows, mountain summits, rocky slopes, woodlands

Natural History

  • native grass species
  • important spring foraging species for wildlife
  • low nutritional value


  • use of herbicides may not be necessary when poverty oatgrass is present at a low density
    • (<15 plants of poverty oatgrass)
    • Adding inorganic Nitrogen fertilizer is counterproductive when this species is present at a high density as it takes up as much fertilizer as lowbush blueberry. (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30978227/)