Did you know that grassland areas such as fields cover between 61 and 62% of the entire island of Ireland? (as per CSO, 2016), although little of this actually accounts for native semi-natural grassland habitats, the areas most of benefit to Irish biodiversity and pollinators.
Ireland’s 100 species grasses are pollinated by the wind. The different species are all unique in their own ways.
Some have long cylindrical inflorescence (flowers) like foxtail, some have two sided spike inflorescence like perennial rye grass and some are spread out in what is known as a panicle. Inflorescence a panicle can be seen in many species including Yorkshire fog!
Within this short small blog-article, we’ll be looking at three of the most common grass species in Ireland and we’ll be helping you to identify them in your own garden!
Scientific Name: Holcus lanatus
Irish Name: Féar an chinn bháin
Yorkshire-fog is a native grass species which is found right across Ireland, it can be found in many habitats from roadside verges to meadows.
Yorkshire-fog is very hairy and soft to the touch, next time you’re in a field (and don’t suffer from hay fever) run your hand down the stem of the plant!
The inflorescence of Yorkshire-fog can look quite long and cylindrical when they first emerge, but tend to spread out in a pyramid shape of soft purple tipped spikelets (the small grain shaped flowers). Yorkshire-fog plants are wearing stripped pyjamas! Have a look at the base of the stem and you’ll find the sheath has purple vertical stripes!
Name: Perennial rye grass
Scientific Name: Lolium perenne
Irish Name: Seagalach buan
Perennial rye grass is a very common native species in Ireland.
This grass species is most often sown within improved agricultural fields in Ireland, It’s probably the most abundant species. This species can be found in many fields, meadows and areas of waste ground.
Inflorescence of perennial rye grass occur on two sides of the stem with spikelets oppositely arranged. The sheath base, just at the start of the roots at the bottom of the plant, are pale purple in colour.
Scientific Name: Dactylis glomerata
Irish Name: Garbhfhéar
When cock’s-foot is in full flower, the arrangement of inflorescence looks like a roosters footprint! This species is very recognisable and is often found in roadsides, meadows and waste ground. Cock’s-foot is native and like the other two species that we’ve just seen, is very common right across Ireland! On top of the rooster footprint like inflorescence, the species is also identified by its flat pale waxy base, if the sheaths are pealed back!
If you see any of these grass species in your garden then make sure to take a photograph and record you’re observation with the National Biodiversity Data Centre at https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/start-recording
Thank you to Alan Mee for allowing us to use these amazing images!
Writte by Luke Myers