Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Guides for Identifying Pasture Grasses

This is the time of year when folks wonder, “What’s that growing in my pasture?” You can use these handy guides to help you find out.

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.


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
Click to download.


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!


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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. Thank you. I am also lookingfor TEFF seed and planting instructions as to depth and amount per acre. Any help?


    • I think your best bet would be to talk to a seed supplier near you. I did a quick google search for you. If you click on this link, you’ll see what I find. Hopefully you’ll see someone you can talk to. I also know that one of our advertisers, Kings Agriseeds, sells Teff seed. You can find them here.

      Here’s what I get from the Teff Grass Management Guide: Recommended seeding rate is usually 5 to 7 pounds per acre for raw seed and 8 to 10 pounds per acre for coated seed. It’s a very small seed that requires good seed to soil contact and should be planted at 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. Deeper than 1/2 inch will probably result in failure. It’s supposed to be planted after all danger of frost has passed. And apparently there are varieties that are grain types and forage types, so be sure your seed supplier knows what you’re looking for.

      Hope that helps!

  2. There are also a few apps that will help identify grasses. Kansas Wildflowers is a good one for the praiire states. iNaturalist does flora and fauna. Plant Snap and Pictures This try to identify grasses and forbs from pictures you take on your phone. I haven’t’ had great success with either of those apps.

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