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Natural vegetaton dominated by grasses

About 5 species, oriental. No two lvs. are marked exactly alike, but the yellow color is near the midrib rather than at the margins. The genus is close to Thyrsacanthus, but in Thyrsacanthus the fls. are not so distinctly 2-lipped. For cult., see Justicia.

Graptophyllum hortense, Nees (G. pictum, Griff. G. picturatum, Hort. Justicia plcta, Linn.). Caricature Plant. Height finally 6-8 ft.: lvs. elliptic, acuminate, irregularly marked with yellow along the midrib: fls. crimson, in axillary whorls; corolla pubescent. Habitat (?). B.R. 1227. Lowe 45. B.M. 1870 shows a variety with reddish brown coloring. — A yellowish -fld. form has been offered under the name G. picturatum, but it does not seem to differ otherwise. N. Taylor.

Grass (Gramineae). Annual or perennial, mostly herbaceous plants with usually hollow sts. (culms) closed at the joints (nodes), and 2-ranked lvs. Culms woody in the bamboos and in a few other groups such as the genus Lasiacis, sometimes solid as in maize: lvs. consisting of two parts, the sheath and the blade, the sheaths enveloping the culm above each node, the margins overlapping or occasionally grown together as in Bromus and Melica. the blades parallel-veined, usually linear or elongated (in some tropical grasses short and broad), on the inside bearing at the junction with the sheath a membranous or hyaline appendage or rim called the ligule; in some tropical grasses, especially bamboos, a petiole inserted between the sheath and blade: infl. paniculate or contracted into a raceme or spike, or more rarely into a head, the branches usually bractless; fls. usually perfect, sometimes monoecious as in maize, or dioecious as in salt-grass (Distichlis), small, without a distinct perianth, arranged in spikelets consisting of a shortened axis (rachilla) and 2 to many 2-ranked bracts, the lowest pair (the glumes) empty, one or both of these sometimes absent: each succeeding bract (lemma) including a single f I. and. with its back to the rachilla, a 2-nerved bract or prophyllum (palea), the fl. with its lemma and palea being termed the floret; stamens usually 3, with delicate filaments and 2 - celled versatile anthers; pistil 1, with a 1-celled, 1-ovuled ovary, usually 2 styles and plumose stigmas: fr. a caryopsis with starchy endosperm, and a small embryo at the base on one side; grain (caryopsis) inclosed at maturity in the lemma and palea (or sometimes exceeding these as in maize and pearl millet), adherent to the palea as in the oat, or free as in wheat. Figs. 1745- 1748 show the structure of various grass florets.

The lemmas are sometimes empty and are then termed sterile lemmas to distinguish them from the involucre or bur as in the sand-bur, or in an indurated shell as in Job's tears (Coix), or the entire spike in numerous husks as in maize.

The perennial species of grasses may produce creeping underground stems (rhizomes) by which they propagate. Kentucky blue-grass and awnless brome-grass are examples of this class. Such grasses usually form a sod. Those, such as orchard-grass, in which no rhizomes are produced usually grow in bunches or tussocks and are known as bunch- grasses.

The true grasses (Gramineae) may be distinguished from other grass- like plants such as sedges (Cyperaceae) and rushes (Juncaceae) by the two- ranked leaves and the cylindrical or flattened stem. Sedges have three-ranked leaves and usually a triangular stem. There are also important differences in the floral structure.

A. S. Hitchcock.

Uses of grasses.

Among the species most commonly known are timothy, redtop, June-grass, orchard-grass, meadow foxtail, the fescues, oat-grass, sweet vernal, quack-grass, Bermuda-grass, sugar-cane, chess; and the cereals, such as wheat, barley, rye, pats, rice, sorghum, Indian corn. In number of species the grass family occupies the fifth place with 3,500, while the compositse, legumes, orchids and madderworts are larger. In number of individuals, the grasses excel any other family. Seed plants are arranged in 200 to 220 families, and of all these the true grasses are of greatest importance; in fact, they are of more value as food for man and domestic animals than all other kinds of vegetation combined. None of these families is more widely distributed over the earth's surface, or is found in greater extremes of climate or diversity of soil.

The species are very numerous in tropical regions, where the plants are usually scattered, while in a moist, temperate climate, although the species are less numerous, the number of plants is enormous, often clothing vast areas. Where soil is thin or moisture insufficient, the grasses grow in bunches more or less isolated. Plants of one section of the family, Panicaceae, predominate in the tropics and warm temperate regions, while plants of the other section, Poaceae, predominate in temperate and cold regions.

Overstocking dry grazing districts checks the better grasses, destroying many of them, and encourages the bitter weeds which multiply and occupy the land.

A grass extends its domain by running rootstocks, by liberating seeds inclosed in the glumes which are caught by the breeze, by some passing animal, or the nearest stream; the twisting and untwisting of awns bury some of them in cracks, crevices or soft earth. In case a growing stem is thrown down for any reason, several of the lower nodes promptly elongate on the lower side and thus bring the top into an erect position. Each sheath supports and holds erect the tender lower portion of the internode, where it is soft and weak; it also protects the young branches or panicles. Thrifty blades of grasses suitable for pasture and lawn elongate from the lower end, so that when the tips are cut off the leaves do not cease to elongate, but renew their length. When exposed to sun or dry air, the blades develop a thicker epidermis, and. by shrinking of some of the delicate bulliform cells of the upper epidermis, they diminish their surface as they roll their edges inward or bring them together, like closing an open book. When the plant is in flower the minute and delicate lodicules become distended just in time to spread the glumes and liberate the stamens.

Grasses are not so much employed for ornamenting homes as their merits warrant. By selecting, some can be found suited to every week of the growing season, though many of them are in their prime during June, the month of roses. Wild rice (Zizania) is fine for rich soil in the margins of ponds, and masses of reed grass for deep beds of moist muck. For massing or for borders the following and others are stately: Arundo Donax, A. conspicua, maize, pampas-grass, Eulalia, ribbon-grass, Andropogon formosus, A. halepensis, Hystrix, Tripsacum. For glaucous blue-green, use Elymus arenarius, Festuca glauca, and Poa caesia. For potting and borders, there are striped varieties of Dactylis, Anthoxanthum, Holcus lanatus, H. mollis, Poa trivalis, Phleum pratense, and others may soon be produced. For table decoration nothing is better than the elegant, airy panicles of large numbers of wild grasses, such as species of Poa, Koeleria, Sphenopholis, Panicum, Paspalum.Eragrostis, Muhlenbergia, Bromus, Festuca, Agrostis, Deschampsia, Uniola, Briza, Cinna latifolia. For large halls and exhibitions, nothing surpasses sheaves of wheat, barley, rice, oats or any of the wild grasses. For decoration, grasses should be cut before ripe, dried in the dark in an upright position, and may be used in that condition or dyed or bleached. For paths, nothing is more pleasing than strips of well-mown lawn.

Drainage keeps out sedges and encourages the better grasses; manure and irrigation help the best grasses to choke and diminish most weeds. Enough has already been done to show that rich rewards are sure for him who patiently and intelligently attempts to improve grasses for any purpose whatever by selection and crossing. Quack-grass is excellent for holding embankments; Ammophtia arenaria for holding drifting sands. The grass family furnishes its full quota of weeds, among them quack-grass, crab-grass, chess, June-grass, sand-bur, stink-grass.

Turf-forming grasses are those that spread freely by creeping rootstocks, such as June-grass, quack-grass, Bermuda-grass, Rhode Island bent and redtop, while most others are more or less bunchy. For northern regions not subject to severe droughts, sow Rhode Island bent and June-grass both, or either one alone; for certain regions, which are liable to suffer from dry weather, sow June-grass and plant Bermuda-grass. These two on the same ground supplement each other in different kinds of weather, securing a green carpet during every part of each growing season. W.J.Beal.

Grasses, Popular Names Of. Few grasses hold commanding positions as specimen plants, although the agricultural values of grasses are transcendent. Some of the commoner vernacular grass names (not all of true grasses) are given with references to the proper

genera: Animated Oats, Avena. Artificial-G., sometimes used for certain forage plants, as sorghum, but also leguminous plants, as clover, lucerne, sainfoin. Awnless Brome-G., Bromus inermis. Beach-G., Ammophila arenaria. Bear-G., unusual name for Yucca Jilamentosa. Beard-G., Andropogon; also Polypogon monspeliensis. Bengal-G., Setaria italica. Bent-G., Agroslis. Bennuda-G., Cynodon Daclylon. Blue-eyed- G., Sisyrinchium. Blue-G., Poa. Bluejoint-G., Blue- stem-G., Calamagrostis canadensis, Andropogon furcatus, Agropyron smilhii. Bog-G., Carex. Bristly Foxtail-G., Setaria magna. Brome-G., Bromus. Canada Blue-G., Poa compressa. Canary-G., Phalaris canariensis. Cattail-G.f Phleum pratense. China-G., Boehmeria nivea. Citronella-G., Cymbopogon. Cocksfoot-G., Dactylis glomerata. Cotton-G., Eriophorum. Couch-G., Agropyron repens. Crab-G., Ekusine and Digilaria sanguinalis. Crested Dog's-tail G., Cynosurus cristatus. Deer-G., Rhexia virginica. Dog's-tail-G., Cynosurus. Eel-G., Vallisneria spiralis. English Rye-G., Lolium perenne. Espartc-G., Slipa tenacissima. Feather-G., Slipa pennata. Feather Sedge-G., Andropogon saccharoides. Fescue-G., Festuca. Finger-comb- G., Dactyloctenium. Finger-G., Chhris. Fly Away-G., Agrostis hiemalis. Four-leaved-G., Paris quadrifolia. Fowl Meadow-G. poatriflora. Golden-Top G. lamarckia aurea. Guinea-G., Panicum maximum; also erroneously used for Holcus halepensis. Hair-G., Agrostis hiemalis. Hare's-fail G., Lagurus ovatus. Hassock-G., Deschampsia csespitosa. Herd's-G., in New England is timothy (Phleum pratense); in Pennsylvania, florin (Agroslis alba). Holy-G., Hierochloa borealis. Hungarian-G., Setaria italica. Italian Rye-G., Lolium multiflorum. Japanese Lawn-G., Zoysia pungens. Job's-tears, Coir. Johnson-G., Holcus halepensis. June-G.f Poa pratensis. Kentucky Blue-G., Poa pratensis. Large Quaking-G., Briza maxima. Little Quaking-G., Briza minor. Love-G., Eragrostis elegans. Lyme-G., of upholstery is Deschampsia caespitosa. Marram-G., Ammophila arenaria. Myrtle-G., Acorus Calamus. Oat-G., Arrhenalherum elatius; also various species of Avcna. Orchard-G., Dactylis glomcrala. Palm-leaved G., Panicum sulcatum. Pampas-G., Cortaderia. Pepper-G., Lepidium; also Ptiularia globulifera. Plume-G., Erian- thus Ravenwe. Pony-G., Calamagrostis stricta. Purple Bent-G., Calamovilfa brevipilis. Quack-, Quick-, or Quitch-G., Agropyron repens. Quaking-G., Briza. Rattlesnake-G., Briza maxima; also Glyceria canadensis. Ray-G., Lolium perenne. Redtop G., Agrostis alba. Reed-G.,Arundo,Bamboo. 'Reed Bent-G,,Calamagrostis. Reed Canary-G., Phalaris arundinacea. Rescue-G.,- Bromus unioloides. Rhode Island Bent-G., Agrostis canina. Ribbon-G., Phalaris arundinacea var. picta. Rough Bent-G., Agrostis hiemalis. Roughish Meadow- G., Poa irivialis. Rough stalked Meadow-G., Poa irivialis. Rye-G., Lolium perenne. Sand-G., Calamovilfa longifolia. Scurvy-G., Cochlearia officinalis. Scutch-G., Cynodon Dactylon. Seacoast Bent-G., Agrostis alba var. maritima. Seneca-G., Hierochloa borealis. Sesame-G., Tripsacum. Sheep's Fescue- G., Festuca ovina. Silk-G., Agrostis hiemalis. Silver Beard-G., Andropogon argenteus. Sour-G., local name for Kumex Acelosella. Squirrel-tail-G., Hordeum. Star-G., Cattitriche; also locally for Hypoxis and Aletris. Striped-G., Phalaris arundinacea var. picta. Sweet- scented Vernal-G., Anlhoxanthum odoralum. Tall Meadow Oat-G., Arrhenatherum elalius. Tickle-G., Agrostis hiemalis. Teai-G.,CoixLachryma-Jobi. Texas Blue-G., Poa arachnifera. Timothy, Phleum. Tufted Hair-G., Deschampsia cxspitosa. Vanilla-G., Hierochloa borealis. Viper's-G., Scorzonera. White Bent-G., Agrostis alba. Whitlow-G., Draba, especially D. verna, and Saxifraga tridactylites. Wood Meadow-G., Poa nemoralis. Woolly Beard-G., Erianthus. Wonn-G., Spigclia; also Sedum album. Yellow-eyed-G., Xyris. Zebra-G., Miscanthus sinensis.

Grass is a common word that generally describes a monocotyledonous green plant in the family Poaceae. True grasses include most plants grown as cereals, for pasture, and for lawns. They include some more specialised crops such as lemongrass, as well as many ornamental plants, and some weeds. They also include plants often not considered to be grasses, such as bamboos.

Grasses and grass-like plants have always been important to human beings. They provide the majority of food crops, and have numerous other uses, such as feeding animals, and for lawns. There are numerous minor uses, and grasses are familiar to most human cultures.

The term 'grass' is sometimes used to describe related plants in the rush (Juncaceae) and sedge (Cyperaceae) families, that resemble grass somewhat. It may also be used to describe other unrelated plants, sometimes of similar appearances to grass, with leaves rising vertically from the ground, and sometimes of dissimilar appearance.

Grass covered house in Iceland

Plants that are commonly called grass, but are not true grasses include:

In Fiction

Grass plays a central role in two important science fiction catastrophe novels from the 1940s and 1950s, Ward Moore's Greener Than You Think, in which the world is slowly taken over by unstopable Bermuda Grass, and John Christopher's The Death of Grass, in which a plague that kills off all forms of grass threatens the survival of the human race.

See also

Germinating grass seedlings



  • Chapman, G.P. and W.E. Peat. 1992. An Introduction to the Grasses. CAB Internat., Oxon, UK.
  • Cheplick, G.P. 1998. Population Biology of Grasses. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Milne, L. and M. Milne. 1967. Living Plants of the World. Chaticleer Press, N.Y.
  • Soderstrom, T.R., K.W. Hilu, C.S. Campbell, and M.E. Barkworth, eds. 1987. Grass Systematics and Evolution. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
  • Went, Frits W. 1963. The Plants. Time-Life Books, N.Y.
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