Monday 31 January 2011

Festuca rubra - Red Fescue

Red Fescue has rhizomes -
 it is a spreading plant.
Here it is placed on 1 cm  graph paper

Grass of the Month for January 2011

Festuca rubra has needle-like leaves - as narrow as a bristle.

It grows in lawns.

The upper leaves can be wider and ribbed,
You  can flatten out the upper leaves with your finger nail. 

But the basal leaves you just cannot flatten. They are needle-like.

Upper blades of Red Fescue
can be held over the finger
and opened out and flattened
Upper blade
Basal leaf cannot be opened out

I've chosen this grass because nearly everyone in the UK 
should be able to go out and find some outside their house/flat, 

if not in a lawn nearby, then maybe in a city park, or a road verge.
(It grows in North America and Northern Europe too.)

 January is a cold month - but I just opened the door
and crossed the road
and picked some from the verge opposite,
and some from a little further along, from a three year old pile of soil. 

There are only  four relatively common grasses that have needle-like leaves. So they can be distinguished from all the other common grasses which have broader leaves. 


In the first four months of 2011  I shall show how to distinguish the four grasses with needle like leaves.

Red Fescue is the only one that grows in "ordinary" places. The other three only grow where there are very low nutirents, mostly on bogs or heaths where the soil is acid,  (though Sheep's Fescue will grow on chalk and limestone as well.)

  • Mat Grass- (Nardus stricta) grows on peat or acid sandy soils and moors, especially slightly damper soil.
  • Wavy Hair-grass (Deschapsia flexuosa) grows on acid soils - with Mat grass - but also on drier acid soils and under trees on acid soil, and under conifer plantations - the needles make the soil acid.
  • Sheep's Fescue (Festuca ovina) grows on acid soil as the above two species and also on very basic places (i.e. chalk and limestone)
  • That leaves Red-Fescue (Festuca rubra)- which grows in low nutrient soil that is not acid and medium nutrient soil. (If lots of fertilizer is put on a field it will get out-competed by Rye-grass)

There are actually many varieties of Red Fescue, some having been bred for use in turf, but here we are lumping them all as "Red Fescue" .

Tubular sheath
So what if you are on the border between two habitats? How do you to distinguish the four species if they are not in flower? 

Answer: Look at the blade-sheath junction

This picture illustrates three useful features:-
1. The ligule is very short
2. The sheath is tubular and the top of the sheath is like a v-necked jumper (as seen more clearly below right)
3. To check that the sheath is a tube, rather than having two overlapping edges, the sheath has been bent - the sheath crinkles a little - but there is no separating of two sides of the sheath. - Next month we'll look at Festuca ovina which has open sheaths.

top of tubular sheath has
the appearance of
a v-necked jumper

I found the remains of a flowering shoot

Here at the tip you can see a complete spikelet on the right, with florets with awns (bristles) and with two glumes at the base of the spikelet - then on the left is the base of a spikelet with just two glumes left. the florets have gone.

Two glumes are all that
remain of the spikelet

Why not go out and look in a lawn near you, find a needle-like grass and say "Hello - I've found some Red Fescue".

Monday 17 January 2011

Barn Dance - a great success

How many people came to the Barn Dance on Saturday 15th?

Well the Elizabeths and Mary  cooked 81 potatoes.

I counted 12 potatoes left before people came for seconds - that makes 69 people at the meal.

You can see 64 people in the picture.. A few left before the meal, one couple to escape flooded roads.

Annie Park, the caller from Kendal, is a Scottish Country Dancing teacher. She showed us some excellent easy dances. 14 people came from Scottish Dancing classes in Settle and Ingleton came and three people came from the English Country Dancing group at Langcliffe. She kept us on our feet dancing all the time..

To continue the Scottish flavour, it being only 10 days away from Burns night, I and Michael Cullingworth processed in, with me carrying haggis and neaps (including veg haggis) and Michael reading Burns' poem.

Just before the beginning of the dance, just as people were arriving and we then only had about 40 people, I asked everyone

"Go and find a person you don't know - at all, and ask them their name, where they come from and ask them to tell you one interesting thing about themselves."

Whilst one or two people groaned at this, most took it up enthusiastically -

.. so we each learned a new person's name. I recommend it.

We served Cool Earth Coffee - I never had time to announce it - but people enjoyed the coffee. And I put the Greetings cards out in the adjacent "primary room" and a few people enjoyed looking at them and 3 bought some, but most were too busy dancing.

A big thanks to the Elizabeths and Mary for  cooking the chili, chili veg and mince,  and to all the people from different churches who brought deserts - from pavlova to trifle to gateaux to shortbread.. and to the helpers who blew up the balloons, collected the money, sold the tickets beforehand.

We raised £109.06   for the Rainforest Fund and £109.06 for Churches Together

If you wish to try out a Scottish dancing class we meet at 7.30pm each Thursday evening - except February 3rd when there is no class. Annie Park will be taking the classes for a few weeks.- .

Saturday 15 January 2011

Barn Dance tonight in Aid of Rainforest Fund and Churches Together in Settle

Tonight we are holding a barn dance in joint aid of the Rainforest Fund and Churches Together in Settle.
The caller will be Annie Park from Kendal. She is nobly teaching our Scottish Country Dancing class whilst Robert Rushton our usual teacher is away. She came this Thursday and is great .. and will keep us in order!

We have been selling tickets and have sold just over 50 but don't know whether we'll get 50 people or 80.
Elizabeth says that they are catering for 81 - 81 baked potatoes - because that number is divisible by 3:  and there are three cooks - one cooking chili mince, one cooking ordinary mince and one cooking vegetarian chile. I am going to bring some haggis as the dance will have a Scottish flavour, and it is only ten days away from Burns' Night. .

We can also have the Selkirk grace:

Some hae meat and canna eat,
and some wad eat that want it,
but we hae meat and we can eat,
and sae the Lord be thankit.

which apparently was actually in use long before Burns time.

I wonder if I will have chance to play my tape from Ian Walker's record:

Some hae meat and cannae eat
Some would eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
Sae let the Lord be thankit

From my armchair window on this world
Before my eyes appearing
Foods for breakfasts, dinners, teas
For in between meals feeding

From my armchair window on this world
I see butter mountains rising
And fish thrown back into the sea
And leaders compromising

And then I see one bowl of rice
A child's eye staring at me
With feeble bones life never owned
Reaching out to touch me

Just down the road a million miles
Our children they are crying
Too weak to eat they've got no meat
They spend their living dying

(as sung by Ian Walker)

Saturday 1 January 2011

Happy New Year - Ripon Cathedral Watch Night Service

 I attended the Watch night service at the Ripon Cathedral - well almost Watchnight Service - we actually left the cathedral at 11.45 in time to walk up to the Market Square for Midnight.

The New Year is a very special time - time to make resolutions - so I am happy to attend a watchnight service.

The Cathedral is Old - The Saxon Crypt was built in the 600s but the Much of the church you see today dates from the 12th century, though most of the nave was substantially rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries.

When these walls were built the dodo still happily roamed Mauritius (- Dodo- discovered 1598, extinct by 1681.)

but on the other hand we didn't have potatoes to eat in this country!!

 The cathedral was packed - I knew to attend very early to get a good seat. I sat next to a group that had come in from Leyburn 20 miles away and to another group that had a visitor from Philadelphia.

The Dean invited us to invite more friends next year so that we could have double the attendance

I only took the pictures as people were leaving.

During the prayers we  had lit our candles

Then we processed out of the cathedral

I was reminded of earlier in the month when the ground was white with snow

Here is a picture I took before the service with the hornblower (Actually a friend standing in for the regular hornblower who was on holiday) waiting at the Town Hall to accompany the mayor to the cathedral. The hornblower has been blowing his horn at 9pm, on the Square and at the Lord Mayor's House for many 100s of years -- (Well he was blowing it in 1943 as evidenced by this Pathe News video)

The market pace was full of people. Just before midnight, the Bishop and then the Lord Mayor came to the Town Hall balcony. We counted down to midnight.
10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1.  And cheered.

The Fireworks were let off.

Happy 2011 everyone.