Quick Facts

Quick facts

  • Sand Oat (Avena strigosa) is an annual grass species that, while recorded from several Australian states, is apparently rare in these states.
  • Sand Oat prefers sandy, loamy or clay soils, but it can also grow in heavy clay and soils with low nutrient value.
  • In some areas of Europe, Sand Oat occurs as a weed of barley and oat crops.
  • It is similar to other weedy oat species found in Australia, Wild Oat (A. fatua) and Bearded Oat (A. barbata).

What Does It Look Like?

What is it?

Sand Oat (Avena strigosa) is an annual grass with stems growing to 1.2 m in height, each with 3–5 nodes (joint of a stem from which leaves arise). Its stems and leaves are glaucous (having a bluish appearance). The leaves are rough-textured, 8–25 cm long and 3–12 mm wide, and have rounded ligules (membranous outgrowth at junction of blade and leaf sheath) that are 2–5 mm long.

The flower head is multi-branched, drooping, 8–30 cm long and 3–10 cm wide. The flowers (spikelets) are 2–2.5 cm long not including the awns, and each contains 2–3 florets. The glumes (outer bracts of the spikelet) are 5–9 nerved and 16–24 mm long. The lemmas (lower bract of the floret) are narrowly lance-shaped with two lobes with tips extending to form bristles 3–12 mm long. The awns (bristle like projections) are almost straight or bend below the middle, 2–3 cm long. The palea (upper bract of the floret) has 1 or 2 rows of small hairs (cilia) (Jacobs & Hastings 1993; Clayton et al. 2008).

For further information and assistance with identification of Sand Oat, contact the herbarium in your state or territory.

Flower colour


Growth form (weed type/habit)


Where it currently grows? Preferred habitat

Sand Oat prefers sandy, loamy or clay soils, but it can also grow in heavy clay and soils with low nutrient value. It is not highly shade tolerant and prefers dry to moist soils, but can tolerate drought. It occurs in dry waste or cultivated areas, especially in heavier soils (Plants for a Future 2004).

Are there similar species?

Wild Oat (Avena fatua), the main weedy oat species in cropping situations, and Cultivated Oat (Avena sativa) are similar to Sand Oat. These two species can be distinguished from Sand Oat by the presence of two small teeth or lobes (2 mm) at tips of the lemma (lower floret bract); the lemma of Sand Oat display longer bristles 3–12 mm long (Jacobs & Hastings 1993; Hussey et al. 2007).

Bearded Oat (Avena barbata) is a more common non-cropping weed species in Australia, and also similar to Sand Oat (Robertson 2006; Hussey et al. 2007). Sand Oat is distinguished by lemma (lower floret bract) bristles with lateral teeth, while these teeth are not present in Bearded Oat. The glumes (spikelet bracts) are generally 7–9 nerved in Sand Oat, and 9–10 nerved in Bearded Oat (Jacobs & Hastings 1993).

Why Is It A Weed?

What are its impacts?

Agriculture: Sand Oat can occur as a weed of spring barley and oat crops in some areas such as in Poland (Kiec 2003), but no information is currently available for the impacts of Sand Oat in Australia.

How does it spread?

There is currently no information available for the dispersal of Sand Oat, but similar Avena species (e.g., Bearded Oat, Avena barbata) are known to be dispersed by animals as their seeds can stick to fur, wool or footwear (Robertson 2006).

What is its history in Australia?

There are herbarium records for Sand Oat from Truro, north of Adelaide, South Australia, in 1924 and near Balliang, west of Melbourne, Victoria in 1929 (National Herbarium of Victoria 2008).

How To Manage It?

Best practice management

Chemical control: Sand Oat is easily controlled with herbicides (CTAHR 2002).

Please see the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority for chemical information http://www.apvma.gov.au 

Non-chemical control: Similar Avena species (e.g., Bearded Oat, Avena barbata) can be controlled by pulling or clipping isolated plants, or by slashing larger patches when in flower to prevent seeding, repeating in following years if necessary (Robertson 2006).

Does it have a biological control agent?


When does it grow? (lifecycle/growth calendar)

Sand Oat is an annual grass that is in flower from early summer. The seeds ripen from late summer to autumn. (Plants for a Future 2004).

Where Is It Found?

Which states and territories is it found?


What areas within states and territories is it found?

Sand Oat is recorded from New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. However, it is apparently rare in these states (Sharp & Simon 2002).

Where does it originate?

Sand Oat is native to Europe (Jacobs & Hastings 1993; Plants for A Future 2004), but it occurs widely in Europe, Africa, Temperate Asia, Australasia and North and South America (Clayton et al. 2008).

National And State Weed Listings

Is it a Weed of National Significance (WONS)?


Where is it a declared weed?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the National Alert List for Environmental Weeds?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Is it on the Agricultural Sleeper List?


Government weed strategies and lists – Weeds Australia

Names And Taxonomy

Main scientific name

Avena strigosa

Other scientific names (synonyms)?


Does it have other known common name(s)?

Sand Oats, Black Oat, Bristle Oat, Small Oat, Lopsided Oat

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