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American Agricultural Grasses 1

Naturevolume 32pages525526 (1885) | Download Citation



HOWEVER complicated the systematic synonymy of the Gramineæ may be, the popular nomenclature of the grasses is probably in an even more unsatisfactory state. In the former case the name of the author appended to the scientific name of the plant is usually sufficient to dispel any ambiguity as to what particular plant is meant, even though that plant may have received half a dozen systematic names from as many different botanists. In the case of the trivial name, however, even this means of identification is lacking, and it is no un common circumstance to find the same name applied to several different grasses, each one of which may, more over, have one or two additional names. To those who are studying the grasses in their agricultural aspect this confusion is very perplexing, particularly as both the English and the American agricultural journals usually refer to a grass by its trivial name. The difficulties which surround this subject are well exemplified in the volume before us. For example, in American agricultural publications the term “salt-grass” is frequently met with, and we searched this volume in the hope of finding out the species so denominated. But instead of one we find no less than four distinct species, in as many genera, called “salt-grass,” namely, Vilfa depauperata, Sporobolus aroides, Brizopyrum spicatum (Distichlis maritima) and Spartina juncea. To an English agriculturist foxtail means Alopecurus pratensis only, whereas in America the name is also given to A. geniculatus, Hordeum murinum, H. jubatum, and Setaria setosa. Rye-grass in England is Lolium perenne; in America the term is applied in addition to four species of Elymus. Blue grass is the name given to four distinct species of Poa, varying considerably in their agricultural value, and one of these, P. pratensis, often spoken of as Kentucky blue-grass, is also called “June grass” “spear grass” and “red top,” the last name being equally applied to Agrostis vulgaris. Bunch grass is more vague in its application, for it embraces at least six species in five genera, while in Canada the same name is given to two other grasses, Elymus condensatus and Kœleria cristata, the former of which is known in the United States as “giant rye grass.” The term “goose grass,” which in England is restricted to the rubiaceous hedgerow weed Galium Aparine, is, in America, applied to Poa annua, which is also called annual spear grass, and to Panicum Texanum, further known as Texas millet. The grass Holcus lanatus, which to all English farmers is known as Yorkshire fog, is variously termed velvet grass, velvet mesquite, satin grass, and meadow soft grass, this last term being also current in England.


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