Useful Grasses in Britain

Two common grasses in a local meadow: Yorkshire Fog (Holcus lanatus) and Sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum)

The family of Poaceae, which is the last family in Stace’s  and most other modern Floras) has 5 Sub-families and 16 tribes.

It is by far the largest family in the temperate world as grasses flourish in nearly every habitat!

Stace does mention many obvious non-natives which have naturalized in several places, as well as crop plants which have been grown in the B.I. for many centuries.

Many people find grasses hard to identify and this is mostly due because of their small parts, which often need  be looked at through magnifying glasses and of course they are mainly all green!

However with a bit of practise and knowledge into which diagnostics to look for, they are not too difficult. It can get adictive as the flowers are often beautiful!

I use colour coding for easy reading! Blue background is general interesting info (although I hope you find it all interesting!!). Green is about all the uses except for medicinal uses or if there is a warning in which case I use a pink background. Amber coloured background is for all the cereal grasses this time. Pictures by Matt Summers and Mike Poulton unless stated.


Gallery of grasses (by Mike Poulton)
Identifying Grasses
Ornamental Uses of Grasses
How to make a standard lawn more attractive!
Mixes of grasses for hard wearing and fine turf
Wildlife Uses
Main uses of Grasses

Main important grasses:

Marram Grass or Ammophila arenaria

Leymus or Leymus arenarius

Common Reed or Phragmites australis

Floating Sweet grass or Glyceria fluitans

Small Sweet-grass or Glyceria declinata

Perennial Rye Grass or Lolium perenne

Italian Rye Grass or Lolium multiflorum

(Mainly) Medicinal Grasses

Sweet Vernal Grass or Anthoxanthum oderatum

Sweet/Holy Grass or Hierochloe odorata

 Darnel or Lolium termulentum

Couch Grass/Twitch or Elytrigia repens

Cultivated Grains in our temperate world:

Wheat or Triticum

Rye or Secale

Barley or Hordeum

Oats or Avena

Food and Drink
Fodder and Bedding
– Other Uses
– Medicinal Uses
An edited account of our cultivated grains
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