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Tufted Hair-grass in  road verge;
25-11-2008; Ingleborough behind.

Grass of the Month for December

Deschampsia cespitosa - Tufted Hair-grass

December is Christmas month. See "Grasses" in the Christmas bible readings, at the end of this page.

Tufted Hair-grass, or Deschampsia cespitosa is not found in Israel.

Rather it is a plant of northern countries around the North Pole. ... where Father Christmas lives, with his reindeer.

It grows on clay damp soils, often with Yorkshire Fog.

I actually chose Tufted Hair-grass for this month because it is a big grass which the cattle and sheep avoid eating, so in December there are often still tussocks of it left.

Winskill Stones Reserve in 16 June 2009

Also it is one of the easiest grasses to identify vegetatively.

Also I took some photos in November before the snow arrived in December. The picture on the right was taken on 25-11-2008 and has Ingleborough in the background.

In summer, in areas of low grazing, the  animals selectively go for the surrounding grass leaving the tussocks standing proud. Low grazing can thus increase the abundance of this plant. This is what is happening on the right at Winskill Stones Nature Reserve.

Deschampsia cespitosa likes deep clay soils. It can swamp out smaller species.

There are lots of fun things to look out for on the plant:-

Six easy-peasy ways to identify Tufted Hair-grass:

  1. Extremely strong ribs on the leaves
  2. Green and white stripes on the blades when you hold a blade to the light. The ribs are green and the grooves between the ribs are colourless and let the light through, so you see green and white stripes .
  3. Very rough blades  if you trail your finger down the blade.There are tiny silica hooks on the blades which can cut you.
  4. Very long ligules -  1/2 cm to 1 1/2 cm long
  5. Beautiful big silvery panicles. The culm can be up to 1.5m tall.
  6. Tufted or even tussocky clumps.

All these features make it easy to identify. 

Tussock of Tufted Hair-grass
at Foxglove Covert 25 Nov 2010



 Grasses in the Christmas Readings


Genesis 3 v 17 and 18 - Living Bible
God said to Adam... ".. Because you ate the fruit..  I have placed a curse upon the soil. All your life you will struggle to extract a living from it.  It will grow thorns and thistles for you, and you shall eat its grasses (other versions say plants/ herbs/grains - though grains arein fact grasses.)

Isaiah 37 v7
The parched ground will become a pool, with springs of water in the thirsty land. Where desert jackals lived, there will be reeds and rushes!

Luke 2 v7
Mary laid Jesus in a manger
- The manger would contain straw or hay or other animal food i.e. grasses

Luke 2 v 8
Shepherds were in the fields, guarding their flocks of sheep.
(The vegetation of fields with grazing is mostly grasses)

Matthew 2 v 11
The Kinkgs gave him gold, frankincense and myrrh
Although not  grasses, both Frankincense and Myrrh  are plants which are now on the IUCN Red Data endangered species list.  Both  myrrh  and frankincense grow as small trees or shrubs; they are of the botanical family Burseraceae. 




Well that's twelve grasses for 2010!

Next year we shall start on another twelve.

           All the best for 2011

And may you learn 12 new grasses in 2011.


ACTION: Go out and look at the grasses near you.


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