River Oats is a perenniel cool season grass (C3 photosysthesis), but it makes seed in the fall like a warm season grass. This species has a fibrous root system that serves as a soil stabilizer in areas prone to erosion; the rhizomes (underground stems) often form colonies. River Oats also propigates by seed, and it is wind pollinated. This grass prefers moist sites in sun or shade, however it will grow on drier sites that are shady. River Oats will grow under walnut trees. The common name refers to the appearance that is similar to Oats; it is also called Northern or Inland Sea Oats, Inland Wood Oats, and Uniolia latifolia.
The seeds of River Oats are eaten by various birds including quail and turkey as well as some rodents. Deer also relish the seeds and eat them directly off of the plant. The foliage is consumed by deer as well as the caterpillars of several butterfly species.
This grass is highly palatable and continuous grazing can eliminate it from the area. It is a great species for moist soil areas in sun or shade and it also does well in drier shady places as well. During winter, the brown forage retains palatability better than many other species that are brown and dormant during the winter.
This grass is a beautiful ornamental species and grows well in shady locations. The cool green color of summer gives way to a purplish bronze in fall. The flattened seedheads, which dance in the breezes of late summer and fall, are beautiful in a landscape and are a great choice for fresh and dried flower arrangements.
This species is naturally found in bottomland forests as well creek and river bottoms that are shady or full sun. River Oats grows beneath a fairly heavy canopy of trees, but it will also grow in full sun when the soils are moist. River Oats is found on drier sites when there is more shade.