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Autecological studies on Ehrharta calycina n. Distribution, habitat and environmental relationships

Autecological studies on Ehrharta calycina n. Distribution, habitat and environmental relationships

Advancing Frontiers Plant Sci 8: 83-107

Detailed autecological studies on Ehrharta calycina (perennial veldtgrass) indicate that this species is well adapted to the climatic and edaphic limits of its habitat. Though predominantly a winter rainfall plant, it is more specifically limited to habitats of light, well drained soils. E. calycina appears to be a genotype forming a center for adaptive radiation in the genus. Though old, it is considered a successful species from an evolutionary point of view. The characteristic spacial relationship of plants in a natural population, and the relative lack of associated species, appears to be determined by the interrelationship of the pattern of surface root growth after rain and the deep soil root system. The recommencement of growth in the autumn before rain and following the hot dry summer is suggested as a release from a summer dormancy which is induced by raised soil temperatures and released by declining soil temperatures in the autumn. It appears that root competition is a major factor in limiting E. calycina to dry sandy situations where its very extensive fine, fibrous root system enables it to withstand the summer droughts. Factors which limit the extent of this root system severely limit the growth and recovery of the grass. An hypothesis is presented to account for the occurrence of perennial grasses in otherwise annual dominated grassland. It is suggested that under certain conditions these perennials may have a selective advantage. Agrono-mically the grass has a potential for increasing production on dry sandy ranges where the winter temperatures are mild. It is unlikely that it will be used as a constituent of mixed pasture swards, since it is ecologically "non-social" and since it cannot be grazed severly continuously.

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Related references

Autecological studies on Ehrharta calycina: I. A review of the literature. Advancing Frontiers Plant Sci 8: 69-81, 1964

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