Field guide to COM­MON GRASSES

Countryfile Magazine - - Hay Meadows -

1 CRESTED DOG’S TAIL Cynosaurus crista­tus

This hardy grass has a flat­tened, spiked in­flo­res­cence, the flo­rets of which dan­gle their sta­mens to­wards one side. Its flower stems, which were for­mally used to make straw hats, be­come tough and un­palat­able so per­sist late into the year on graz­ing land.

2 COCK’S-FOOT Dactylis glom­er­ata

A ro­bust, tus­socky grass with flat­tened veg­e­ta­tive shoots. Its one-sided, dense spikelets are clus­tered on three or four branches, liken­ing its out­line to a chicken’s foot. An im­por­tant con­trib­u­tor to the hay crop, cock’s foot also oc­curs in many other grassy habi­tats.

3 COM­MON BENT Agrostis tenuis

Be­gin­ning to flower in late June, this fine-leaved grass com­petes best in drier parts of mead­ows, on poorer acid soil. It is also known as brown top, be­cause its airy, open flower pan­i­cles re­sem­ble a brown­ish­pur­ple haze. It’s widely cul­ti­vated for high qual­ity lawns.

4 MEADOW FOXTAIL Alopecu­rus praten­sis

This be­gins growth early in spring and its dis­tinc­tive cylin­dri­cal in­flo­res­cences bloom in mid-May, much ear­lier than the sim­i­lar Ti­mothy grass. It is at its most im­pres­sive in moist, fer­tile soils of water mead­ows, where its flow­er­ing stems may reach one me­tre tall.

5 QUAK­ING GRASS Briza me­dia

Heart-shaped spikelets dan­gle from slen­der stems and trem­ble in the slight­est breeze, a char­ac­ter­is­tic that is re­flected in quak­ing grass’s lo­cal names like cow quakes, dod­der­ing dil­lies, shiv­er­ing and tot­ter grass. It favours dry, cal­care­ous grass­land and is soon lost when this is ‘im­proved’ with added fer­tiliser.

6 SWEET VER­NAL GRASS An­thox­an­thum odor­a­tum

One of the ear­li­est grasses to flower, of­ten in April, sweet ver­nal grass thrives in acid soils in up­land mead­ows. It con­tains high lev­els of coumarin, which is re­spon­si­ble for the in­tense new-mown hay fra­grance of a freshly mown meadow. Its in­flo­res­cences ripen to a golden-yel­low in sum­mer.

7 YORK­SHIRE FOG Hol­cus lana­tus

This ma­jor com­po­nent of hay mead­ows has a pro­lific seed out­put that rapidly colonises bare soil patches. The softly, hairy in­flo­res­cences have a del­i­cate red tinge, so dense pop­u­la­tions of this grass look like a pink mist on a sum­mer evening.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.