Grasses may the most important plant species in existence. They belong to the family known as Gramineae or Poaceae. Cultivated species of barley, millet, oats, rice, rye and wheat are the basic foods of most peoples. They are also used extensively in construction and landscaping.
The grass bed near the Plaza has many interesting varieties of grasses, and other varieties are scattered throughout the Garden. Grasses have stems that are hollow and most belong to the Poaceae family. Among them are:
Acorus gramineus: Grass-leaf sweet flag is native to eastern Asia and likes its feet wet. We have several cultivars. It is not a true grass, but its leaves look like blades of grass. It also has a citrus scent when pinched.
Bouteloua gracilis: Also called blue grama or mosquito grass, this genus is named after two Spanish botanists, Claudio and Esteban Boutelou. There is a blond variety in the Backyard Bird Garden. It is native to North American prairies. The "mosquitos" refer to the flowers which hover about the foliage and look like dried insects.
Briza media: Quaking grass is native to Eurasia, and its seeds are an important food source for birds.
Calamagrostis: Reed grass or smallreed is often reed-like, hence the name, as kalamos is the Greek word for grass. There are about 260 species, 3 of which we have in our Garden.
Carex: These perennial grasses are true sedges, and there are over 2000 species. We have about 10 species and several cultivars.
Cortaderia selloana: Pampas grass is native to the pampas of South America and can grow to 10 feet. Its large flowers are appreciated in landscaping. It is used to feel livestock in its native area.
Deschampsia cespitosa: Tufted hair grass or tussock grass is native to grasslands of several continents. It is a beautiful ornamental plant, with many cultivars.
Elymus: This genus is related to cereals grains and is often called wild rye, wheat grass or couch grass. E. canadensis is native to North America, while E magellanicus, blue wheat grass, is native to South America.
Hakonechloa: Bunch grass or hakone grass is native to eastern Asia and likes shade. We have several cultivars grown for their intense colour.
Saccharum ravennae: Plume grass looks similar to pampas grass but is hardier and native to the Mediterranean.
Schizachyrium scoparium: Commonly known as little bluestem, its bluish blades can reach 4-5 feet in height by the end of the summer. We have several cultivars. It is very drought-tolerant and does well in poor soil.
Stipa gigantea: Giant needle or feather grass can grow to 8 feet and is a Great Plants Pick for our area.