Folks like to know what I grow in my pastures – and it’s what’s in a lot of your pastures too. So here’s a video that shows what I’ve got and why I like it. (Again, there’s a bit of wind in the video, so I apologize.)
Kathy added some pictures of these grasses to help you with identifying them at your place. And don’t forget the online resources she’s provided for pasture plant ID. Just click here to check them out.
Jan and I want to help you along with your success, so we’ve posted lots of information on our new website. Stop by and check it out. If you have questions, or would like me to cover a particular topic, let me know.
This is a tall growing bunchgrass with long leaves that strongly folded and are lighter green compared to other grasses. It is also a prolific tillering grass. All grasses “flower” but orchard grass actually has flowers at this stage of growth as you can see in the illustration to the right.
Kentucky Blue Grass
This low-growing perennial grass forms a dense sod, spreading by short rhizomes. Kentucky blue grass is dark green while Canada blue grass is blue green. You can recognize it by it’s narrow leaves with a boat shaped tip.
Kentucky 31 Fescue
This is a tall growing bunchgrass although it can produce short rhizome. Its leaves are dark green, coarse and medium-to-wide, with “corduroy” like deep parallel grooves. The endophyte it carries can be harmful to livestock, so it takes special management to graze it well. It’s great for stockpiling, but not everyone loves it as much as Greg does.
Reed Canary Grass
This is a very tall growing sod grass with extensive rhizomes. It grows best in wet soils but tolerates well drained sites. The leaves are wide but leaf blades are short relative to leaf width.
The reason Greg calls this an ice cream plant is that it can be as high as 27% protein, making it very palatable to livestock. It’s a bunch grass with erect leaves up to 2.5 ft long and an inch wide. Stems can reach six-feet long. Distinctive flowers spikes rise above the leaves on slender stems. Spikes have many tightly fused spikelets that take on the appearance of being ‘jointed’. When in flour the spikes appear to have golden grains of rice hanging from them.
White Ladino Clover
White clover is a stoloniferous plant with a shallow root system. (That means it spreads via a horizontal branch from it’s base, like strawberries do.) The primary stems of white clover usually die before the second year, and the life of the plant depends upon the stolons and their haphazard roots.
At first glance the only difference between this and white clover is the color of the flower. But as Greg mentioned, researchers have found that it has special properties that help animals dealing with the effects of endophyte tall fescue. You can read more about that here. If you think your stock would benefit from some of this in your pastures, here’s an article on how to establish and manage it.
This plant is adapted to cool climates and heavy, poorly drained clay soils. It grows 15-30 inches in height with a small ½-inch diameter pink flower, which forms at the ends of secondary branches from the main stem. It should be differentiated from red clover, which has a larger flower, hairy stems and leaves and a white inverted “V” on the leaf similar to the white clovers. NOTE: If you have horses, Alsike clover is not for you. It causes sensitivity to the sun, leading to blistering and skin loss, and can damage their livers.
Hey….What’s This Grass?
Identifying grasses is not easy, especially when they’re vegetative and haven’t produced a seed head yet. Folks in the know are looking for the kinds of things that the chart on the left points out, so that’s why, when you send someone a picture of your grass, they may not be able to identify it.
If you want to know what’s growing in your pasture, invite someone over from your local NRCS office or Conservation District, or find an Extension Agent in your state. They can walk around your pasture with you and point out the little differences that will help you in the future. I’ve been lucky to work with some folks who were quite good at grass identification and they shared pointers with me that made it much easier.