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Grasses at a Glance

Dig deep into the types of grasses and their uses in our world.

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clump of Tall Fescue

Identifying Tall Fescue

Last week while leading a guided hike through a prairie restoration, I was able to observe numerous species of grasses – both those that are desirable in a restoration, and those that are remnants of previous land uses. While I saw native Prairie Dropseed, Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, and Indiangrass...
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a patch of Little Barley grass

Identifying Little Barley, a weedy spring annual

As someone who pays close attention to plants, weeding becomes an interesting chore. Instead of just looking for plants that are different than what I am trying to grow, I find it fun to identify all of them (and photograph them!). Talk about making a simple task more complicated! While weeding a...
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clump of orchard grass in bloom

How to identify Orchard Grass

As we enter May, many cool-season grasses are beginning to flower, which makes them a bit easier to identify. One such grass is a European pasture and hay grass called Orchard Grass, Dactylis glomerata. This non-native grass has been used in agriculture for centuries and can persist in old...
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bunch of a sedge in bloom

Telling apart grasses, sedges, rushes

This time of year, I start getting emails with questions about how to identify grasses that people find growing in their yard. After reviewing pictures, oftentimes the grass they want to know more about actually turns out to be a sedge. Sedges are grass-like plants, but they have some distinct...
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timothy in bloom with other plants in background

Identifying Timothy, a cool-season grass

When I was a kid, we had guinea pigs as pets, Hershey, Graham, and Tristan. One regular part of their diet was hay. Each pig absolutely loved eating the fluffy little grass pieces included in the hay – it turns out those favorite pieces were Timothy. Timothy, Phleum pratense, is a popular...
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Clump of Annual Bluegrass

Annual Bluegrass, a common garden weed

A couple of weeks ago I was working in a food donation garden, prepping raised beds in anticipation of planting early spring crops. Some of the raised beds were covered in weeds that needed to be removed. One of them happened to be Annual Bluegrass, Poa annua. This grass already had an...
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clump of Little Barley growing among other grasses, with seed heads visible

Identifying winter annuals – Little Barley

It’s early in the year but the sights and sounds of spring are coming alive in southern Illinois. I enjoy seeing harbingers-of-spring and spring beauties in bloom and redbuds bursting forth. I am also starting to pay attention to winter annuals, which take advantage of the warming weather to amp up...
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drooping inflorescence of cheatgrass with background of field of grasses

Keep an eye out for Cheatgrass, a winter annual

It might be difficult to imagine that even in the middle of winter, certain weeds have gotten a jumpstart on growth for the spring. Annual plants complete their life cycle in one year and are often divided into winter annuals and summer annuals. Several grasses fall into each of these categories....
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Giant Cane growing in a bottomland forest

Identifying Giant Cane, a native bamboo

Even during the coldest of winter days, one grass continues to boast green foliage – Giant Cane. Giant Cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is a unique grass because it is the only native species of bamboo found in Illinois. Once widespread throughout the bottomland forests of southern Illinois,...
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bunches of orange grasses standing out from the green foliage behind it

Identifying Broomsedge in fall and winter

As we enter December, you’re likely not thinking about going outside to work on your grass identification skills. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good time to pay attention to grasses! Certain grasses stand out during the dormant seasons of the year for one reason or another, and over the...
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