Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Overlooked grass is invaluable to biodiversity

With the Bog of Allen Nature Centre

Nuala Madigan

Reporter:

Nuala Madigan

Email:

bogs@ipcc.ie

Kildare's Wildlife Watch: Overlooked grass is invaluable to biodiversity

Timothy Grass

There are many species I have not written about — however reviewing those I have, I noticed that one of the most dominant species in our communities I have written very few pieces on is grasses.

There are many different types of grass in our communities, it is estimated that there are 10,000 species around the world. Although humans cannot consume its leaf, its fruit, which provides us with food, is called grain, while the leaf is an important source of food for farm animals.

Grasses prevent erosion of soil and they provide a habitat for wildlife. They grow through photsynthesis, which filters our air. Some species of grass are used for building material, including reed grass, which is typical in wetlands.

Some grasses even provide a biofuel such as Miscanthus (elephant grass) and they can also be used as animal bedding.

Considering the services grasses provide for us, it is strange to think how I take this species for granted, walking past it every day and not thinking about its value to us at all.

Timothy grass (tiomóid as Gaeilge) is a grass that is widespread and common in Ireland growing on roadside verges and fields nationwide.

It is a native species and I decided to choose this species of grass to focus on this week, as its flower head is very distinctive and easily identified.

The flower is cylindrical in shape and ranges in size from 5-15cm in length. The leaves are broad, hairless and can be described as being a faded green in colour. Each leaf also has a characteristic whorl.

This grass is disease free (that is, there are no known diseases that affect the growth of this species of grass), it is frost tolerant and traditionally it was one of the grasses chosen to make hay. It can reach a height of 1.2-1.5 metres and it flowers between June and August each year.

Will you find the timothy grass in your community this week?

If you would like help identifying or to learn more about a wildlife species contact me via e-mail bogs@ipcc.ie.