Monday, 19 April 2010

Anthoxanthum odoratum - Sweet vernal-grass

Grass of the Month


I'm going to tell you a poem .. one that not only has secret hidden tips on how to identify this grass of flower rich hay meadows .. but also revels in the joy of finding it.

The picture on the right has two Sweet Vernal-grass heads in the foreground and a barn with a traditional haymeadow beyond. (It was actually taken in early June)

Sweet Vernal-grass, which starts to flower at the end of April or beginning of May, is one of the first grasses to flower - apart from Blue Moor-grass in northern limestone areas and Annual Meadow-grass which flowers all year.
It has small flat leaves and the emerging leaf rolled - like Common Bent-grass, and several other common pasture grasses - but it is distinctive in having hairs at the edge of the base of the leaf blade.







 April: Sweet Vernal-grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum)

I spy you in the meadow
I spy you in the wood
I scent you in the hay stack
You make me smile -It's good.
Small upright head you greet me
With dandruff-like white flecks
I see your flag leaf waving
What will you think of next?
And when you try to hide you
In grazed and grassy glades
That golden green it sparkles,
Under your drooping blades.
I pounce, lens at the ready,
to see if I am right
I look at blade base edges
Yes - whiskers there alright.
With shoot held close to my eye
Your roots are close to nose
That coconuty coumarin
Smell slowly on me grows
I spy you in the meadow
I spy you in the wood
I scent you in the hay stack
You make me smile -It's good.

Explanation: -
1 I spy you in the meadow
I spy you in the wood
I scent you in the hay stack
You make me smile -It's good.
Sweet vernal-grass is the only common grass to have a smell, and it gives the scent to hay.
It grows in traditional flower rich hay meadows - but will grow in other places too such as woods, road verges and your garden
2 Your upright head it greets me
With dandruff-like white flecks
I see your flag leaf waving
What will you think of next?
It has a long oval/obovate head. There is an appearence of dandruff on the inflorescence head. This is due to the long white stigmas and also the filament stalks of the white anthers get left behind. It has a short flag leaf half way up the plant.
3 And when you try to hide you
In grazed and grassy glades
That golden green it sparkles
Under your spiral blades.
It is a small tufted plant with flat blades and the emerging leaf rolled, so could look like the very common grass Common bent (Agrostis capillaris) with which it grows. But its blades are a little bit wider and the under surface of the blades are a slightly orangish shining green. The blades spiral very slightly on their own axis, and droop very slightly so it is possible to see both surfaces at once.
4 I pounce, lens at the ready,
to see if I am right
I look at blade base edges
Yes - whiskers there alright.
What it says.
5. With shoot held close to eye
Your roots are close to nose
That coconuty coumarin
Smell slowly on me grows
The smell of coumarin can be described as like coconut but also like creosote. the smell gets stronger as the plant dries.
Sweet woodruff, a white flower found in ancient woodlands has shoots with this small too and it is/was sometimes picked and dried and stored with linen to keep it smelling nice
6. I spy you in the meadow
I spy you in the wood
I scent you in the hay stack
You make me smile -It's good.


Looking down onto a grazed tuft of Anthoxanthum in mid April



An individual shoot held up to the light.
See the hairs at the base of the leaf blade.
You can see here that the emerging leaf is rolled - the part on the right is not a stem coming out but a blade rolled up.



View through Swiss army penknife-lens.
See the hairs at the base of the leaf blade.
The hairs show up well in the shadow.
1mm squares on the graph paper.

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