At least a hundred different kinds of grasses grow in England, but to know them all is a very intricate science. Here are a number of the commonest kinds, and it is something for a nature-lover to be able to distinguish even these.

For simplicity, scientific terms are avoided, but the three following are used for the sake of clarity : Ligitle.

Where the leaf of a grass joins the main stem, there is often a little upstanding collar encircling the stem. It may be no more than a sixteenth of an inch in depth. This is the ligule.


Each little flower is encased in two boat-shaped husks which fit together by means of a hinge. They are called glumes.

Awned Glume.

Sometimes a 204 glume bears a pointed bristle, jutting out from its tip. It is then spoken of as being ‘awned.’ Barley, Meadow.

Common. Resembles farmer’s barley, only the grain is very much smaller, and the beard more extensive. The head is wide from side to side, but narrow from front to back. If all the grain and beards are removed, the central stem is curled in and out. The glume is awned.

Canary Grass, Reed.

Common in moist places. The flowers occur in panicles, five or six of the latter on each stem. The glumes are without awns, and the ligule is long and acute. The underside of each leaf is clearly marked with veins.

Cat’s Tail Grass.

Sec Timothy Grass.

Cock’s Foot Grass.

Very, common. Dusty green and rough so that the feel puts one’s teeth on edge. The heads of flowers jut out alternately from the stem. The whole flower head forms a triangle. The glumes are awned, hairy, pointed, and ridged. The ligule is large and split.

Couch Grass.

See Twitch.

Dog’s Tail, Crested.

Common . The flower head keeps close to the stalk. The flower lobes are found in pairs, the lower one being composed of barren flowers. The glumes are awned, but the latter is so small that often it can hardly be seen. The ligule is split.

False Oat Grass.

Very common. The head carries a number of straggling stems, capped with oat-like flowers. Two of these always occur together, the upper one is fertile and has a straight awn, while the lower one is barren with a twisted awn. The ligule is hairy on the outer ring. See also Oat Grass, Perennial.

Fescue. Hard Fescue.

Common. The flower head is upstanding and triangular, and each flower is purplish. The main stem divides the head equally. The glumes have small awns. The leaves are very narrow, resembling the flower stalks.

Sheep’s Fescue.

Common. A favourite food of sheep. The flower head is straggling, and not very full. Each bloom is purple, and the glumes have a short awn. The ligule is long; it has two curious curled ends. The stalks are not circular in section, but square; they are rough.

Flying Bent.

See Moor Grass, Purple.

Foxtail Grass. Marsh Foxtail. —

Common in damp places. A bushy head, cylindrical in form, and made up of countless small flowers, each on a separate short stalk. The leaves are wide.

Meadow Foxtail.

General appearance, as for Meadow Barley, but the head is much larger.

Hair Grass, Silver.

Very common, especially in dry places. The panicle is not full and bushy, but merely a graceful pyramid with a few equally spaced flowers. The glumes are pointed and awned. The stems are rough.

Holcus Grass, Common.

Very common. A dusty putty colour; only green when young and fresh. The flower head is pyramidal in shape, composed of numerous triangular lobes. The stalks are rough, dusty white, with purplish veins. The glumes are both awned and not awncd. The ligule is small.

Meadow Grass, Annual. —

The commonest grass in England; is one of the Poa group. The head of flowers is pyramidal in shape. The flower stalks jut out from the main stem usually in pairs, and each stalk bears three to six flowers. The glumes are long, pointed, and with a ridge running along the back. They are not awned. The ligule is whiter than the stalk, which it grips closely, and is blunt. The leaves are smooth and flat, not ridged.

Millet Grass .

Common. A very beautiful grass, the flowers of which are found at the end of curving side stalks. These join the main stalk in pairs, one balance-ing the other. The flowers are green and sometimes purple. The leaves have a rough surface and are a dusty colour. The glumes are awnless, and the ligule is comparatively large. ?rXoor Grass, Purple.

Common on damp moors. Also known as Flying Bent. The flowers occur regularly along a serpentine-twisted stalk, and their own stalklets are short. The blossoms are purple, and have the habit of pointing upwards. The glumes are pointed and without awns. The ligule consists of a tuft of hairs, or it is entirely missing.

Oat Grass, Perennial.

Common. The False Oat Grass has a somewhat similar flower and seed, but the arrangement is different. In this, the true Oat Grass, the awn on each glume is twisted and very long, whilst the awn itself has a serrated end.


See Meadow Grass.

Quaking Grass, Common.

Very common, often called Totter Grass.. The flower head somewhat resembles a pyramid. Each flower has a tendency to bend over. The glumes are wide and without awns. The ligule is short.

Reed Grass.

Common in moist places. No relation to Reed Canary Grass. Grown high, often as much as 10 feet. The flowers occur in narrow panicles, which form a pyramid on the main stalk. The blooms are purple at first and then brown. The glumes are shiny and without awns. The leaves are strap-shaped and white.

Timothy Grass.

Common. Also known as Cat’s Tail Grass. Much resembles Marsh and Meadow Foxtail grasses, but forms a neater head, flatter at the top and base than them. Note that the glumes are particularly hairy, and that some have a bristle whilst others are without it.


Very Common. Also known as Couch Grass. It is a great trouble to farmers, owing to its creeping habit, which allows it to spread at an alarming rate. The flowering head consists of a stem curved in serpentine fashion, with the flowers fitted into the curves. It is, therefore, long and narrow. The glumes have a kind of awn, while the ligule is short and with a fringe.

Vernal Grass, Sweet.

Very common. The panicle is bushy and irregular in shape. The glumes have no awns, and the ligule is long and provided with a row of hairs. Where the leaves spring from the stalks, there are two curled lobes.