Home   Dr M weekend plant mini-quiz   Dr M’s Poaceae quiz – the answers!

Dr M’s Poaceae quiz – the answers!

Tried Dr M’s Poaceae quiz?  If not have a go here… then check the answers below…

Some common grasses can be ID’d quite easily e.g. Dactylis glomerata (Cock’s-foot) which can often be reliably identified from 100 paces and definitely a species to ID from a moving vehicle at speed!

Other grasses can only really be ID’d to genus from a photo and some only tentatively even so.

But you can learn a lot from looking at plant photos as well as leafing though ID books (pardon the pun!) and of course walking through grasses in the field.

Check out Dr M’s review of the top books for grass ID here.

Stace, Cope & Gray, Hubbard and the veg key all have a role to play in polishing up your grass ID, whether in flower or vegetative you know its worth it!

So now, without further ado, here are the images all labelled up with common names and see the table below for Tribes, Latin names and ID hints and check out Dr M’s series on the Tribes of grasses (Tribes without tribulation here) for more top tips.

Poaceous Post Script: Thanks to those of you who pointed out the original image of #27 Marram contained at least some Lyme Grass (Leymus arenarius), the replacement photo is by Peter Gateley and is a classic unambiguous shot of Marram!

Thanks to the following for use of images:

Alastair Culham, BSBI, Floral Images, Geoffrey Hall, Peter Gateley, Steven Heathcote

Dr M says: Here’s the table, do send me comments and your top tips for grass ID!

Tribe Latin name Common name ID Notes
1 Poeae Cynosurus cristatus Crested Dog’s-tail One-sided spike-like inflorescence, separate sterile and fertile spikelets, check them out with hand lens, they are awesome!
2 Aveneae Aira praecox Silvery Hair-grass Annual of dry sandy places, inflorescence a delicate panicle, spikelets with dorsal awns
3 Poeae Briza media Quaking Grass Elegant grass with drooping, purplish, ovoid spikelets “quaking” in the breeze
4 Bromeae Bromus hordaceous Soft Brome Brome grasses generally have oval spikelets, lemmas with terminal awns, plants hairy
5 Poeae Poa trivialis Rough-stalked Meadow-grass Inflorescence branches in whorls, spikelets oval, flattened and without awns (Festucas are similar but have awns)
6 Nardeae Nardus stricta Mat Grass Stiff wiry grass, inflorescence a 1-sided raceme with 1-flowered spikelets
7 Aveneae Arrhenatherum elatius False Oat Tall grass, inflorescence with clustered branches, irregularly triangular in outline, lemma with dorsal, geniculate (bent) awn
8 Aveneae Agrostis capillaris Common Bent Inflorescence is a very fine branched panicle, 1-flower per spikelet. Inflorescence rather open in A capillaris while A stolonifera is more dense and compact
9 Aveneae Phleum pratense Timothy Inflorescence a rigid, spike-like panicle, spikelets 1-flowered and glumes with a pair of horn-like awns (check close-up).
10 Aveneae Phalaris arundinacea Reed Canary-grass Tall grass of wet places, inflorescence chunky and lobed a bit like an elongated Dactylis
11 Cynodonteae Spartina anglica Common Cord Grass Salt-marsh grass, culm with several spikes – like the fingers of a hand, spikelets pointed and 1-flowed, ligule a fringe of hairs (but can’t see in the photo!). Check Hubbard’s book on grasses for the fascinating story of the evolution of this grass in the late 19th century
12 Poeae Catapodium rigidum Fern Grass Stiff, glabrous annual grass of dry places, panicles one-sided and rather dense
13 Poeae Festuca rubra Red Fescue Fescues have oval spikelets which are laterally compressed and usually with short terminal awns (unlike Poa). F rubra is rhizomatous (F ovina is tufted and not creeping) and you can guess the creeping habit from the photo, this is a coastal type which can be quite small and spiky
14 Poeae Lolium perenne Perennial Rye-grass Characteristic of improved grasslands, inflorescence is a spike-like raceme and spikelet are oval and arranged edge-wise and alternate on the rachis (unlike Couch grasses which have spikelets arranged flat-side on)
15 Triticeae Hordeum murinum Wall Barley Barley-like grass with spikelets long awned and arranged in threes (trios) well worth checking out with the hand lens. A very common annual grass of waste ground and the dog zone by lamp posts etc!
16 Aveneae Glyceria maxima Reed Sweet Grass This is a big grass of wet places and the inflorescence is a dense and much-branched panicle and the spikelets are narrowly oblong. The leaves of most species have cross-veins which are worth checking out on a live specimen, obviously not visible in the pic!
17 Poeae Puccinellia distans Reflexed Salt-marsh-grass Tufted perennial of salt mashes and salted roadsides, inflorescence is branched panicle with whorls of branches, the lower ones deflexed (pointing down), spikelets narrowly oblong
18 Arundineae Danthonia decumbens Heath Grass A densely tufted rather small grass usually of acid places but also chalk downland, inflorescence is a compact panicle and the spikelets are plump and chunky. The ligule (as all grasses in this tribe) is a fringe of hairs (but can’t see in the photo!)
19 Aveneae Deschampsia cespitosa Tufted Hair-grass Densely tufted grass with long inflorescence stalks and open branched panicles of silvery spikelets with lemmas bearing dorsal geniculate (bent) awns, leaves are coarsely ribbed (can’t see this in the photo).
20 Poeae Dactylis glomerata Cock’s Foot Characteristic common grass, inflorescence a branched panicle with close-set branches and spikelets in dense 1-sided clusters, vegetative characters include flattened sheaths and conspicuous whitish ligule (cant see these in the photo!)
21 Brachypodieae Brachypodium sylvaticum Wood False Brome Hairy grass not unlike a brome (hence common name) inflorescence is a spike-like raceme, spikelets are cylindrical alternating in 2 rows on opposite sides of the axis. Common grass of woodland and shady places
22 Aveneae Lagarus ovatus Hare’s-tail Grass Beautiful softly hairy annual grass, does what it says on the tin, i.e. Looks like Hare’s tail! Lemmas have dorsal geniculate (bent) awn
23 Bromeae Anisantha sterilis Sterile Brome A brome with spikelets elongated, lemmas with very long terminal awns, very common weed of arable and waste places
24 Arundineae Molinia caerulea Purple Moor-grass Densely tufted tussock grass with long inflorescence stalks, spikelets often purplish. Up close you can see ligule a fringe of hairs (but can’t see in the photo!)
25 Aveneae Polypogon viridis Water Bent Inflorescence branches in whorls and crowded with pale green or purplish spikelets mostly right to the base. A non-native species rapidly increasing in Britain
26 Aveneae Melica uniflora Wood Melick Delicate attractive woodland grass, inflorescence loose and sparingly branched with 1-flowered spikelets (usually also with several sterile lemmas within)
27 Aveneae Ammophila arenaria Marram Classic tufted grass of sand dunes, leaves inrolled to conserve water in the xeric dune environment
28 Paniceae Echinochloa crus-galli Cock’s Spur Untidy, chunky spikelets, no ligule (but can’t see in the photo!)
29 Aveneae Koeleria macrantha Silver Hair Grass The elegant, dense spike-like panicle and   silvery green or purplish spikelets are characteristic, the leaf blade is narrow and densely hairy and ribbed, but can’t see in the photo though!)
30 Triticeae Elymus repens Couch A grass with clasping auricles (Can’t see in the photo though!), inflorescence spike-like raceme with oval spikelets arranged flat-side on and alternating (unlike Lolium which has spikelets arranged edge-wise on)
31 Aveneae Holcus lanatus Yorkshire Fog Softly hairy grass, inflorescence a dense panicle, spikelets papery and often purplish. Key vegetative character is the sheath with “purple striped pyjamas”!
32 Arundineae Phragmites australis Common Reed Our largest grass, and abundant often dominant in wet places and swamps. Inflorescence erect and dense and much branched, spikelets with hairy axis. Ligule a fringe of hairs (not seen in the pic!)
33 Cynodonteae Cynodon dactylon Bermuda Grass Inflorescence digitate (finger-like), ligule a fringe of hairs (but can’t see in the photo!). An uncommon grass in Britain, probably Archaeophyte and now established in sandy maritime places in SW Britain, also in the lawn at Kew and in Dr M’s garden!
34 Aveneae Alopecurus geniculatus Marsh Foxtail Inflorescence narrowly cylindrical and spike-like, spikelets have lemmas with dorsal geniculate (bent ) awn. Vegetative character is the inflated sheath (typical of the genus) and geniculate culms (bent at the nodes)
35 Aveneae Anthoxanthum odoratum Sweet Vernal Grass Inflorescence is dense and spike-like, spikelets are pointed and lemma with dorsal geniculate (bent) awn. Early flowering grass, sweet smelling when picked, hairy and sometimes purplish at junction of blade and sheath
36 Aveneae Calamagrostis epigejos Wood Small Reed A tall tussock-forming grass of open woods on heavy soils, inflorescence a dense panicle, spikelets densely clustered. Calamagrostis spp have a tuft of hairs in the spikelet (not visible in the pic!)

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