Thursday, 30 December 2010

Deschampsia cespitosa - Tufted Hair-grass

Tufted Hair-grass in  road verge;

Grass of the Month

There are several mentions of "grasses" in the Christmas story in the Bible and I shall list them at the end of this blog article.

However Tufted Hair-grass, or Deschampsia cespitosa is not found in Israel - rather it is a plant of northern  places of countries around the North Pole. ... where Father Christmas lives, with his reindeer and it grows on clay damp soils.

I chose Tufted Hair-grass for this month because it is a big grass which the cattle and sheep avoid eating, and there are still tussocks of it left.. and because it is one of the easiest grasses to identify vegetatively.
(And because I took some photos in November before the snow arrived in December) the picture on the right was taken on 25-11-2008 and has Ingleborough in the background.

Winskill Stones Reserve in 16 June 2009
In summer, in areas of low grazing, the  animals selectively go for the surrounding grass leaving the tussocks standing proud. Low grazing can thus increase the abundance of this plant. This is what is happening on the right at Winskill Stones Nature Reserve.

However now the animals are hungry and they are eating it down.

Winskill Stones Reserve in 16 June 2009
Deschampsia cespitosa likes deep clay soils. It can swamp out smaller species.

 There are lots of fun things to look out for on the plant.

Six easy-peasy ways to identify Tufted Hair-grass:
  1.  Extremely strong ribs on the leaves
  2. Green and white stripes on the blades when you hold a blade to the light. The ribs are green and the grooves between the ribs are colourless and let the light through, so you see green and white stripes.
  3. Very rough blades if you trail your finger down the blade.There are tiny silica hooks on the blades which can cut you.
  4. Very long ligules -  1/2 cm to 1 1/2 cm long
  5. Beautiful big silvery panicles. the culm can be up to 1.5m tall.
  6. Tufted or even tussocky clumps.

All these features make it easy to identify. 

Tussock of Tufted Hair-grass at Foxglove Covert 25 Nov 2010

                                           Excerpts from Christmas Readings
Genesis 3 v 17 and 18 - Living Bible
God said to Adam... ".. Because you ate the fruit..  I have placed a curse upon the soil. All your life you will struggle to extract a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat its grasses (other versions plants/ herbs/grains)

Isaiah 37 v7
The parched ground will become a pool, with springs of water in the thirsty land. Where desert jackals lived, there will be reeds and rushes!

Luke 2 v7
Mary laid Jesus in a manger
- The manger would contain straw or hay or other animal food

Luke 2 v 8
Shepherds were in the fields, guarding their flocks of sheep.

Matthew 2 v 11
The Kinkgs gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh
Although not  grasses, both Frankincense and Myrrh are plants which are now on the IUCN Red Data endangered species list. Both myrrh and frankincense grow as small trees or shrubs; they are of the botanical family Burseraceae. 


Well that's twelve grasses for 2010!

Next year (less than 48 hours away) we shall start on another twelve.

           All the best for 2011

And may you learn 12 new grasses in 2011.

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