Common oat is an annual and a member of the grass family, Poaceae, that also includes barley, rice, and bamboo. The origin of common oat is obscure but probably arose from a wild ancestor in the Mediterranean, Middle East, and Himalayan regions. It was brought to norther areas of western Europe by 2000 BC where cold wet climatic conditions favored oat over wheat and barley. The ancient Roman naturalist, Pliny the Elder (died 79 AD) mentions several kinds of oat but the one he calls bromos is probably Avena sativa. Carbonized plant material of Avena sativa has been found in the soil of the Pompeii area dating to the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Photo Credit H. Zell Wikimedia Commons

 Common oat frows singly or in tufts and has a fibrous root system and erect hollow stems up 4′ tall. The flat, narrow leaves are green to blue-green and up to 12″ long. From late spring to mid-summer, terminal, loosely-branched panicles appear. Each panicle is 6-16″ long, spreading to somewhat drooping, and having a few to several flower clusters (spikelets) per branch. Conspicuous, sharply pointed bracts (glumes) cover the spikelets. The fruits/grains are elliptic, light brown and up to up to .35 ” long. Common oat is grown in modern times for fodder, human food, and health benefits.

Size: Up to 4′ H

Light: Full sun

Soil: Average, medium moist, well drained; does not tolerate heat

USDA Hardiness Zones: NA annual


By Karen