I can be as guily as some others by not always paying more attention to the grasses, sedges and rushes that surround us, but you surely could not miss this one!
Down by the river last weekend I came across clumps of these tall and droopy sedges growing on the banks. They can grow up to a height of 1.5m ( 5ft) and are evergreen. The male flowers spikelets grow up to 10cm (4in) long from the tip of the plant, whilst the female spikelets which are pendulous and look similar to catkins grow up to 16cm (6in) long. It flowers May to June.
Sometimes grown in gardens because of its distinctive and attractive appearance, it is a native perennial which is usually found in damp deciduous woodland, or near shaded streams or rivers. It is commoner in the south of England.
Grasses dominate the English rural landscape, not just as meadows and pastures, but also as crops which feed man and animal alike. Grasses easily recolonise waste ground and cover waysides and embankments, and mixed meadow-grasses make for a most beautiful summer spectacle.
We all know what grasses are like, they are such a common sight, yet how many of us can identify a single species? Grasses are plants with long, narrow leaves, rounded hollow stems, with small flowers enclosed in a pair of scales called glumes. These flowers form spikelets, either singly, in pairs or more, enclosed by another pair of scales. Sedges, rushes and reedmaces are also similar to grasses, but have their own characteristics which make them differ so.
Also called ‘Common Bulrush’ and ‘Greater Reedmace’, this is a tall freshwater perennial plant. It has stout stems and grows from rhizomes. It has flat sword-like grey-green leaves, and tall spiky flowers borne one above the other. The female is the thicker brown velvety cigar-like flower, whilst directly above this the yellow flower of the male appears on a narrower spike. In winter or the following spring, the seedhead bursts expelling thousands of light fluffy seeds which are carried off by the wind. Plant height 1.5 to 2.8m. Flower size 15cm long.
Flowers July to August. Found in shallow water or mud on the margins of wetland areas like, marshes, ponds, lakes, ditches, and slow-moving streams. Common and widespread.
This is a tall and robust perennial reed which often forms vast stands near freshwater margins. The spikelets are purplish-brown in colour, the green leaves being long and broad. It can grow up to 2m tall.
Flowers August to September, but turns brown and remains throughout the winter. Found in marshes, pools, and other freshwater habitats. A common and widespread species.
The Common Reed is an important plant in nature conservation for it supports a large amount of wildlife. It is also used to thatch roofs.
This delightfully named grass is one of my very favourites, especially when it goes to seed. They remind me a little of little hanging oriental lanterns, and the dry whisper sound it makes as a breeze stirs the dry husks is quite magical.
A very distinctive perennial grass, the flowers in an open inflorescence and the dangling spikelets resembling miniature hops or cones held on wiry stalks. The leaves are pale green forming loose tufts. Height 40cm.
It flowers June to September, and it is found on dry grassland, usually on calcareous soils. A native species, widespread and locally common, scarce in northern Scotland.
A tufted grass which produces unbranched, bristly flower spikes. The leaves are light green, flat and hairy. Annual. Plant height 30cm. Flower size 9 to 10cm.
Flowers May to July. It is found on bare ground, waste ground, roadside verges, field and wood margins, and coastal areas. Common and widespread in central, southern and eastern England, and scarcer elsewhere.
Photographs taken June 2012, local woodland margin, Staffordshire.
Walking through a local field I came across drifts of this beautiful grass. It is a variable, tufted grass with grey-green leaves and tall, downy stems. The pinkish-red flowers are tightly packed to begin with, until they spread and open out in two-flowered spikelets. It is a perennial grass, and grows up to 1m tall.
It flowers from May to August, and is found in meadows, woodland margins and openings, and wasteground. It is a common and widespread species.
Photographs taken June 2012, local field, Staffordshire.