is one of the largest and most varied families in the
plant kingdom. Some kind of grass can be found on almost
every land surface of the earth. Grasses grow in swamps
and deserts; in subzero polar regions and hot tropical
areas; on rocky land; and on cold, snowy mountains.
Grasses range from the short kinds found in lawns to
woody, tall bamboos from which some furniture is made.
Cereal grasses such as wheat,
oats, barley, and corn are made into flour which is in
turn made into breads, pastas, and many other food
products. Most of the sugar we eat comes from a grass
plant called sugar cane. Brewers and distillers use corn
and barley in making alcoholic beverages. Cattle and
other livestock survive on a steady diet of pasture
grasses during the summer months, and on hay (dried
grass) and silage (cut grasses and grains) during the
winter. Paper can be made from the leaves and stems of
Grass also beautifies the landscape and plays an
important part in soil conservation. It forms an
attractive surface for lawns, parks, and playgrounds. It
helps to save the fertile topsoil from ersoion. Grass
covers the surface of the soil, and its roots hold the
soil particles together so that wind cannot easily blow
the particles away and water cannot wash them away.
Grasses may be either annual or perennial.
Annual grasses die at the end of the growing season, and
new seed must be planted at the beginning of the next
season. Perennial grasses live through the winter and
grow again each year.
Grasses may be classified into six main groups:
grazing and forage grasses, turfgrasses, ornamental
grasses, cereals, sugar cane, and woody grasses.
Below are ten of the most commonly seen
grasses (in the United States), along with information
concerning how they are "used." The insets
focus on the flowers of each respective grass.
||Bermuda Grass (Cynodon
dactylon) is used in lawns, golf courses,
and pastures. It is also planted to control soil
erosion. The plants have rhizomes and stolons
that are from 2 inches to more than 20 feet long.
The grass grows as high as 6 feet. Its blades are
flat and from 1 to 6 inches long.
||Little Bluestem (Andropogon
scoparius) is distributed widely throughout
the United States, but is most abundant in Kansas
and Oklahoma. It grows from 2 to 4 feet high and
has narrow flat leaves 4 to 8 inches long. The
blades are green when young, but turn
reddish-brown when the plant matures.
||Blue Grama (Bouteloua
gracilis) is grown for pasture with buffalo
grass. It grows from 1 to 2 feet high and is very
leafy at the base. It has narrow blades from 3 to
6 inches long. It is found mostly in the Great
||Orchard Grass (Dactylis
glomerata) is grown for hay and pasture
grass. It is one of the first grasses to turn
green in the spring, providing early grazing. It
grows in bunches with stems 2 to 4 feet high. It
can be identified by its tightly clustered
||Buffalo Grass (Buchloe
dactyloides) forms a thick gray-green sod
and spreads by stolons. It grows from 4 to 6
inches high and can be identified by its burrlike
female flower cluster. Buffalo grass is found
throughout the Great Plains. It can withstand
||Smooth Brome (Bromus
inermis) is used for hay and pasture grass.
It grows from 3 to 4 feet high and is very leafy.
The blades are from 6 to 12 inches long and about
1/2 inch wide. The plant has a loose, spreading
(Agropyron desertorum) is good for animal
feed and lawn grass. It grows in bunches with
stems from 10 to 40 inches high. The blades are
about 1/4 wide and from 6 to 10 inches long. The
plant has spikelike flower clusters from 2 to 3
||Sudan Grass (Sorghum
vulgare sudanense) makes good hay, pasture
grass, and silage because it grows fast and can
withstand dry weather. It has many fine stems and
grows from 4 to 7 feet high. It has many narrow
blades, and its flower clusters range from 6 to
18 inches long.
||Kentucky Bluegrass (Pos
pratensis) is a valuable and widely grown
pasture and lawn grass. It grows from 1 to 3 feet
high. The tip of the blade is curved in the shape
of a bow of a boat. Rhizomes spread out from the
plant to start new plants.
pratense) is an important kind of grass used
for hay. It grows from 20 to 40 inches high. Its
many stems make up large bunches of grass.
Timothy flower clusters have a cylindrical shape.
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