Blue Moor Grass - Sesleria caerulea
Grass of the Month for March
In this, the International Year of Biodiversity, CEL website will feature a different British Grass each month - Follow these pages and you will be come an expert in grasses too... well, a little more knowledgable maybe!!
1: January - Reed Canary Grass - Phalaris arundinacea
2: February - The Common Reed - Phragmites australis
3: March - Blue Moor-grass Sesleria caerulea
4: April - Sweet Vernal Grass - Anthoxanthum odoratum
5: May - Meadow Foxtail - Alopecurus pratensis
6: June - Quaking Grass - Briza media
7: July- Timothy Grass - Phleum pratense
8: August - Common Bent - Agrostis capillaris
March: Blue Moor-grass (Sesleria caerulea)
Blue Moor-grass grows on limestone cliffs and scree slopes in NW Yorkshire (especially the Craven Area), Cumbria and Lancashire, in a few places in Scotland and in the limestone areas of Ireland, and in the Alps...
Blue Moor-grass does not grow in the south of England so botanists come all the way up here from London to see this Craven speciality.
(Guess who lives in Craven)
Until recently, it had not been found south of Yorkshire , but now a site has been found for it in Derbyshire. It seems to grow in base-rich areas once covered by glaciers.
And it is the first grass to come out into flower.(apart from annual meadow-grass which flowers all year)
For six months of the year - October to April the temperature is too cold for plants to grow in Craven. Growth requires a temperature of 6º C. However, one special grass is starting to put it bluey-purple head out in March and that is Blue Moor-grass . Indeed, if you split open a Blue Moor-grass shoot in November or December you will find the baby flower inside - it is the only grass in the UK to do that. The limestone places where Sesleria grows can become very dry in summer as water sinks through the cracks in the limestone. The plant puts resources into getting the plant to flower and fruit early before there is a drought. Any grass in flower in March or early April growing in limestone pavement or on our limestone cliffs must be Blue Moor-grass.
If you would you like to recognise Sesleria before it is in flower, go to limestone cliffs, e.g. Winskill Stones, Gordale Scar, and look for a tufted grass that has leaves about 6mm wide and that are folded as they emerge and have slightly boat shaped tips. There are whitish persistent sheaths at the base of the shoot. The blades curve like a scythe - sometimes upwards, sometimes downwards, and often bluish .
Here you can see I had fun taking pictures of Blue Moor-grass with a scanner.
One of the beautiful plants that can grow with Blue Moor-grass is Purple Saxifrage.