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Agrostis capillarisCommon Bent ( Agrostis capillaris )

Grass of the Month - August

In this, the International Year of Biodiversity, CEL website features a different British Grass each month - Follow these pages and you will be come an expert in grasses too. Well, a little more knowledgeable 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

I chose to put Common Bent in August because it does not start to flower until well into July. Patches of ground that just have Common Bent are green and flowerless right through till July.

And where do you find Common Bent?

Common Bent ( Agrostis capillaris ) - small, delicate and inconspicuous - is one of the commonest grasses. Remember running barefoot on the garden lawn as a child? You were probably running on Common Bent, along with needle-leaved Red Fescue. It grows in nutrient poor lawns, acid grassland pastures, sandy soils and in heather moorland.

Its inflorescence is like a spreading Christmas tree with many hundreds of tiny spikelets - tiny because each spikelet contains only one flower. Bents ( Agrostis ) have only one flower per spikelet, Meadow grasses ( Poas ) have several flowers per spikelet

Agrostis capillaris

The plants are small and so nondescript - no hairs, no big leaves, no stolons. The emerging leaf is rolled and hairless, and the short narrow 2mm-wide blades come away from the sheath at a wide angle. The ligule is very short. It grows in little tufts and these are linked by rhizomes, but you can't see these as they are underground.

Common Bent becomes much more exciting on metal ore spoil heaps such as at Pikedaw above Malham, where it is one of the very few higher plants that can tolerate the metal pollution. Since nothing much else will grow, a delightful pattern of small tufts arranged within bigger patches can be seen.

Bentham is a town ten miles from Settle.The word Bentham ( Benetain in the Doomsday book) comes from the word meaning rough grass or reeds. So I like to think it could refer to Common Bent. However other grasses were once called bent - including. Purple Moor ( Molinia caerulea ) once known as White Bent which grows in abundance in white sheets on damp parts of Newby Moor and the moor south of Bentham.

 

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

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