Members Reports and Photos


SATURDAY 7 JUNE 2014                   



Identification of Grasses

Declan gave an overview of the various books with information on grasses available which included John White’s book, An essay on the indigenous grasses of Ireland which was published by The Dublin Society (= Botanic Gardens) in 1803. It has two excellent colour plates of Alopecurus pratensis and Poa trivialis.  After a gap of more than two hundred years we have had the 2012 publication The Grasses of Ireland by John Feehan and Helen Sheridan with photographs by Damian Egan which also contains Tony Farragher’s Key to the vegetative and flowering phases.

For several decades field botanists in Ireland and Britain have largely relied upon Hubbard’s Grasses to solve any identification problems. Hubbard has excellent drawings for each species.  The third edition, by Hubbard’s son, has however become dated and the current “bible” is the BSBI Handbook No. 13 Grasses of Britain and Ireland by Tom Cope & Alan Gray. This handbook is excellent and a “must” for anyone who wishes to be able to reliably identify the full range of Irish grasses. There are other excellent books such as the Collins Field Guide.

David gave a short introduction to grasses including mention of the important cereals which included wheat, barley, oats, sorghum, rice and millet.  Temperature grasses belong to the C-3  group of photo synthesizers and the current views that they should not be negatively affected by rising temperatures provided that drought is not associated. Grasses are wind-pollinated and when in flower, the anthers are exposed and large amounts of pollen are released into the atmosphere. Like many plants the anthers and stigmas of the same plant are not usually simultaneously receptive in order to avoid self-fertilisation. The group was briefly introduced to the terminology used to identify the parts of grasses -  glume, lemma, palaea, awn, culm, ligule, floret, anther, stigma etc..  The Field Studies Council lateral key was available for members who wished to purchase it. The key is very useful for identifying 30 of the more commonly occurring grasses. Beginners may find Jean Turner’s guide very useful for the identification of grasses and sedges (

The next few hours were happily spent examining, identifying and confirming the various grasses collected and identified by the leaders and those brought along by participants. Particular thanks are due to Richard McMullen and Margaret Norton for their expert assistance. Finally, a short trip in the gardens allowed participants to collect and identify the wild grasses growing in an unmown area of the garden and to have a look at some of the grasses and sedges in cultivation in the gardens, as a taster for the July Praeger Workshop on sedges and rushes.
David Nash


         Hubbard (2nd Edition)          Cope & Gray                Hubbard (3rd edition)    


Poa trivialis (PL)                  John White          Alopecurus pratensis (Pl.)


Feehan et al.                      Francis Rose                     Sowerby                     

   Photographs © Pat Lenihan

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