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How to Identify Your Pasture Grasses

By   /  May 15, 2017  /  6 Comments

Here are links to handouts, online booklets, and websites that can help you figure out what you’ve got in your pasture so you can get a leg up on managing your forage successfully.

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This piece from May of 2016 was really popular. So here it is again with some new additions for places I missed last time around. Thanks NatGLC!

A number of On Pasture readers have asked for help identifying what they’ve got growing in their pastures. Finding resources for all of you is a little challenging because you’re all over the globe, and while there are some similarities, there are also a lot of differences.  With that in mind, here are some resources you can check out to get you started.  And remember, identifying grasses in particular is not an easy thing. So if you have a local expert, do give him or her a call.

Click to download.

Click to download.

Northeast U.S.

This is a short and sweet handout with pictures and descriptions from Sid Bosworth, University of Vermont Extension. Identifying grasses isn’t easy, and what I like about this resource is that it points out the little identifiers that make all the difference when you’re trying to separate one kind of grass from another.

Midwest U.S.

Click to download.

Click to download.

Click to download.

Click to download.

From University of Wisconsin-Extension, this full color booklet is great for folks in the midwest United States. I really like the pictures and the table at the back that tells you about growth habit, weed suppression ability, drought tolerance, how it holds up to traffic, and how you can plant it. If you want a hard copy, you can order it online here. Or just download it and keep it on your computer for reference. UW-Extension also put together a booklet to help you identify legumes.

This website supported by K-State Libraries is a good resource for wildflowers, grasses, sedges, rushes, trees and shrubs.

Rangelands of the U.S.

Different rangelands have slightly different plants as well. After looking through a number of online resources, I thought that these gave a good representation of what’s going on out there.

Click to download.

Click to download.

This one comes to us from Colorado State University. The authors share a lot of information about managing grazing at the front part of the book. If you’re just interested in identification, jump to the back half of the book where you’ll find pictures and information on the grasses of the west. There are also nice tables at the end listing plants and their moisture requirements, yield potential, drought tolerance and more.

Click to download.

Click to download.

This one from Kansas has many of the plants I’ve found on arid rangelands and may work well for folks working on rangelands in the midwest area. It’s an older resource (1983), so relies on drawings instead of photos.

Click to download.

The color pictures in this booklet from Oregon make it a nice addition to your online library. Each plant comes with information about growth form, plant height, habitat, use and more.

CA Range plants guide

Click to download.

California and other west-coast areas have some grasses that aren’t found in other places. This booklet from USDA ARS has great pictures and information for each grass about management and habitat.

Southern U.S.

100 native forages grasses in 11 southern states cover

Click to download

This resource is an oldie, but goodie and will help you identify native grasses if you live in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina and Florida. The illustrations are good and if you’re not quite sure, you can google a color photo once you’ve got your grass I.D. narrowed down.

Click to download.

Click to download.

From University of Tennessee Extension comes this nice book on native warm-season grasses. The pictures are excellent, and the narrative includes information on the varieties of a particular grass. It also includes a lot of great information on using these grasses as forage for livestock. Though it says it’s for the mid-south, the maps included show that many of these grasses grow throughout the U.S.

California

Click to download.

This is an oldie, but a goodie. It was written in 1951 by Arthur Sampson, Agnes Chase and Donald Hedrick of the California Agricultural Experiment Station. In addition to drawings of grasses from the region, this book includes information on where and how grasses grow and managing them as forage.

Great Basin

Thanks to one of our readers (Delinda!) for adding this great resource from the Bureau of Land Management. The illustrations point out the parts of the plant that help you identify it and the descriptions help you identify it by where it grows and what it would look like as a full grown plant. There is also seeding information for some varieties.

Great Basin Plant ID Cover

Canada

For our Canadian readers, here’s a great resource out of Saskatchewan.  As I read through it I saw that it had lots of the plants I’m familiar with from other rangelands. So I encourage everyone to check it out too.

Click to download.

Click to download.

The Rest of the World

Finding resources for places I’ve never been was a bit more difficult. I’ve added a few things I’ve found that I hope will be helpful. If they’re not, and you have other suggestions for your area, do let me know and I’ll add them to this article.

Here’s a website with pictures of grasses, rushes and sedges in the U.K. Unfortunately when you click on the picture you don’t get a lot more information. But perhaps once you know what you’re looking at you can do additional internet searches to find out more.

I found this web-based resource that has pictures of grasses of New Zealand and when you click on the picture you’ll find additional information.

You can read “Grasses of Southern Africa” online here.

I hope this helps you this grazing season. AND if you have other great resources that you use, please share them in the comments below. Help out your fellow readers!

natglc-logo-1Thanks to the National Grazing Lands Coalition for making this article possible. Click on over to see the great work they do for all of us. Thank them for supporting On Pasture by liking their facebook page.

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About the author

editor and contributor

Kathy worked with the Bureau of Land Management for 12 years before founding Livestock for Landscapes in 2004. Her twelve years at the agency allowed her to pursue her goal of helping communities find ways to live profitably AND sustainably in their environment. She has been researching and working with livestock as a land management tool for over a decade. When she's not helping farmers, ranchers and land managers on-site, she writes articles, and books, and edits videos to help others turn their livestock into landscape managers.

6 Comments

  1. Laurie Higgins says:

    I can’t get the diagram for the NE to print in color even though I’ve selected color and my color cartridge works for other color print jobs.

    • Kathy Voth says:

      Hi Laurie,
      I’m not sure how to help. I tested it on my computer and it printed in color. I’m running on a Mac and printing to An Epson. In the printing dialogue box I had to click on the auto rotate button so that it would print as a landscape document. But that’s all I did. If we were closer I’d run over to your house and see what I could do. But I’m a loss right now.
      Kathy

  2. Bob Gillaspy says:

    Would you have a higher resolution version of the BLM Great Basin publication? The drawings in the posted version are pretty fuzzy.

  3. Sean Cunningham says:

    The Colorado plant guide was linked to the California one. Might be good to fix it!

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