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Anatomy of a Grass Plant

from: Paul Burke

The grass plant has taken millions of years to get to the stage it is at now. In early times grazing herbivores used it as a primary food source. Grass plants that grew close to the ground and developed crowns went on to survive and flourish. Today's turf grass has evolved from these early survivors. Almost all homeowners receive enjoyment from their lawns. Very few of us really takes the time to examine the grass plant up close, by doing so we would be astounded by its complexity and characteristics.

The primary growth in a grass plant grows from a ground hugging point known as the crown. By mowing at a height above the crown you ensure the plants survival. Many times during a spring clean up, the crew will damage the crown causing devastating results if the damage occurs during active growth. Shoot and roots originate from the crown. The root system is utilized by the plant to hold it in place, as well as being the primary means of acquiring nutrients and water from the soil.

By developing leaves and stems above ground the plant takes in sunlight and carbon dioxide in a process known as photosynthesis. First to appear from the crown is the primary shoot . It produces a leaf and a stem. Each leaf has a blade and a sheath. The sheath wraps itself around the blade to protect it, while the blade continues to grow upwards. Where the blade and sheath meet is known as the collar. In the interior of the collar is a ring of hairs known as the ligules. Ear shaped lobes known as auricles are found at the end of the ligule. Grass identification uses the different sizes, and shapes of the auricles and ligules to categorize individual cultivars of grass.

Additional shoots originating from the crown are known as tillers. Tillers aid in making your lawn thick and lush. By encouraging a thick, lush lawn you go a long way in stopping weed growth, insect infestation, and damage by turf diseases. Kentucky Bluegrass, which is a common cultivar in our area, spreads by creeping stems underground known as rhizomes. As the rhizome continues to grow it will create additional plants that are capable of sustaining themselves by producing their own roots and shoots. By taking the time to understand the basic structures of your grass and how different grasses reproduce, you will be on your way to creating a lush, thick weed free lawn.

Paul is a Certified Pesticide Applicator in the province of Alberta,Canada. He has 15 years experience in the lawn care industry.

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