I think that I must be fundamentally unobservant, for the majority of the time. Then, just now and again, I look in the right place by accident. I suppose it comes down to living in the jungle and having to keep an eye out for things hoping to eat you. At least, I’ve always understood, that that’s what Eve O’Lution had in mind when she put our vision systems together. You can see fine, as long as you don’t look at anything, and then, when something clicks as your brain maps what the eyes report, against the news the brain expected to hear, it sends a message back pointing out the difference and asking for a full investigation. In the jungle you probably just shouted “Duck!” or “Run!” These days, you probably just say, “Oh. Wow!” Luckily, I’ve managed to avoid things looking for a quick snack, so far – but I did, suddenly, come across this grass on a roadside verge that I’ve walked past often.
Google thinks that this is Meadow Cat’s Tails – he’s probably right. It’s often called Timothy. It probably toddled over to America with the early settlers and made itself at home. It was noticed in New Hampshire by a John Hurd and naturally, being a naturalist, he named it Hurd Grass. Unfortunately for him, a few years later, Timothy Hansen began promoting and selling it, so, to his customers, it became Timothy Grass.
We went out this morning in brilliant sunshine, and it was warm too, what a change! Let’s hope that this means that things have been sorted out in the meteorological department and that we might even have a summer this year. Perhaps that’s too much to hope for – but do your best up there. As we walked down the road we stopped now and then to admire the Meadow Foxtails, who are now showing a good coat of Reynard Red. This is quite a strong colour for a grass, they tend more towards the pastel shades, which is why grass flowers are more interesting, they are harder to spot and more difficult to recognise as being in flower, grass is grass after all.
The Buttercups had obviously had the window cleaners round, their petals were shining so brightly, busy reflecting the sun for all they were worth, it was quite dazzling. As the grasses on the verge have grown taller so have the Buttercups, struggling to keep their heads above ‘water’. The Dandelions are having similar problems, they have a rosette of leaves at ground level so they keep up with the times by growing longer and longer stalks on their flowers. They are now looking like miniature skyscrapers with large yellow revolving restaurants on top.
We have a few Beech hedges around but I thought you might like this one as it has a few Copper Beech bushes intermingled with the green.
Grass is funny stuff. It quite deliberately makes itself available to be eaten. You see, if the world was left alone, it would quite happily wrap itself up in forest. Now grass is a sun worshipper and it doesn’t like forest, how can you live in there, it is so dark! Give it a nice clearing any day. As it happens, grazers and other grass munchers tend to be large, so they like clearings too. Not only that but, as these large browsers munch their way round, they trample any tree seedlings, that are trying to encroach the grassy space, into the ground.
So like good marketeers, the grass came up with the idea of offering a free lunch to anyone who is prepared to do a little trampling. They even adapted themselves to growing at the base of their leaves, instead of the tip like other plants. That way it doesn’t matter if the top gets bitten off.
We can’t be sure until the flowers form, but we think this is Meadow Foxtail. Our reasoning here is straightforward, the flowers of Meadow Foxtail appear in May – they are usually the first of our grasses to make the effort.
They like damp moist places best of all – no problem there, then.
Nothing’s as simple as it seems. The grass will grow under your feet whether you like it or not. Grass grows by inches and dies by feet just isn’t true – grass needs cows as much as cows need grass.
Along the verges of our morning meander are countless different grasses and when the sun is at the right angle the colours can be quite eye-catching – particularly where there are large clumps of one variety.
Trying to identify the flowers that we find on our walk is challenging enough for both Google and I, trying to identify the various grasses pushes us both to the limit. We have managed to find a few web sites that offer a catalogue of British plants, but they tend to be indexes of Latin names – not a lot of good to us as we haven’t a clue where to start. With flowers we can at least start with the colour and move on to things like leaf shape etc. With grass – where do you start? Well, it is green I suppose.
Actually it’s funny old stuff, grass is. It’s been around for millennia – the dinosaurs were eating it long before Eve O’Lution had even thought of sheep. It actually grows at the base of the leaf, so as it gets munched it doesn’t get damaged.
If the world was left to itself, an open space would get covered with grass – then the trees would move in and the grass wouldn’t be able to grow under the trees. Cue sheep and cows. The large grass eaters trample the tree seedlings while they are browsing on the green stuff. This kills off the forests and maintains the grasslands.
Being eaten is a small price to pay for the service – I suppose.