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AVENA sativa

Image of Avena sativa

Peggy Greb, USDA/ARS

Family

Poaceae

Botanical Name

AVENA sativa

Plant Common Name

Oat

General Description

Oats once fueled ancient agricultural endeavors as essential forage for livestock, but in today’s world they are a key grain for cereals and breads. Modern oats (Avena sativa) are annual grasses thought to have originated from southeastern Europe and first cultivated around 1,000 B.C. They are believed to be the hybrid progeny of wild oats (Avena fatua) and wild red oats (Avena sterilis). Historically, they were considered less than desirable weeds that infested fields of wheat, rye and barley crops, but over time oats gained acceptance as forage and then food.

A narrowly upright, tufted grass, the oat plant has long, light green to grey-green blades which produce pendulous grassy floral plumes in summer. Wind pollinates the tiny yellow flowers and large, drooping seed grains follow. The seed is protected by two small leaf-like glumes that turn tan with age. Farmers harvest plants partially dry and slightly green to keep the tender seed kernels from shattering.

Like all grain crops, oats need full sun all day long. They grow best in somewhat fertile, loamy soil with a neutral pH. Seeds are sown in late-winter or mid-spring and harvested in summer shortly after seed set. Numerous farm grade cultivars exist with variable grain output, maturation rates and tolerance to cool temperatures.

Oats are surprisingly rich in iron, protein and healthy fats. Their stems create high quality straw used for livestock bedding material, roughage and light mulch for newly sown grass seed.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    10 - 1

  • Sunset Zone

    1a, 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Grass

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun

  • Height

    2'-4' / 0.6m - 1.2m

  • Width

    4"-6" / 10.2cm - 15.2cm

  • Bloom Time

    Late Spring, Early Summer

  • Native To

    Hybrid Origin, Europe

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Neutral

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam

  • Growth Rate

    Fast

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Clump-Forming

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Insignificant

  • Flower Color

    Light Yellow

  • Fruit Color

    Tan

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Light Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Light Green, Gray Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Light Green, Yellow Green, Gold

  • Fragrant Flowers

    No

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Repeat Bloomer

    No

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    Yes

  • Showy Foliage

    No

  • Foliage Texture

    Fine

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    No

  • Showy Bark

    No

Special Characteristics

  • Usage

    Edible

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    Yes