Grass (Poaceae)

Our plant this week is the most abundant plant on Earth, so common it grows almost everywhere, with varieties even growing in the Arctic. The Poaceae (Grass) family has over 12’000 different species which include cereal grasses, bamboos, natural grasslands and cultivated lawns. Grassland (habitat where grass is predominant) cover approximately 41% of the Earth’s surface. Grasses also play an important role within the vegetation of many other habitats, including wetlands, woodland and forest.

Photo by Paul Hunter, Orangefield Park

Grasses are the most economically important plant. Providing one of the world’s most significant food sources they are used to supply corn, wheat, barley, oats, rice and millet, even sugar (comes from grasses). It is also used as wheat and barley to make Beer and Whiskey. Grass also provide food to many grazing mammals such as cows, sheep, horses, rabbits, deer and elephants as well as to many species of invertebrates - butterfly, caterpillar, moths and grasshoppers. Grasses are unusual, in that the Meristem (cells from where new growth can take place) is found at the bottom of the plant. This means that they can be cut, cropped, eaten, damaged but are able to recover quickly.

Photo by Paul Hunter, Orangefield Park 

Grasses are also used within production for paper, fuel, clothing, insulation, basket weaving and roofing as well as many other things.

Did we forget to mention that grass also helps improve air quality by producing oxygen and trapping airborne dust particles and other contaminants. In fact, 230m2 of grass will produce enough oxygen for a family of four.

Where to find it??

This week we are spoilt for places to see Grass. It is literally everywhere; you can see it in the hedgerows, playing fields, lawns, wasteland, riversides, parklands even rooftops. We have even some ornamental varieties planted within shrub planting and en masse along the along Holywood Arches Health Centre boundary at C.S. Lewis Square.

Photo by Karen Oliver, Orangefield Park 

The most common grass you will see on the Connswater Community Greenway are two main types; amenity parkland and sports pitches. Between the two we can see grass managed differently. Sports fields will be managed more intensively as they get more intensive use. The grass seed used will be selected specifically for quick regrowth due to intensive use and mowing requirements. Amenity parkland grass will be cut regularly but the grass type is specially chosen to be slower growing and will not need as intensively and fed. This reduced cutting and feeding benefits the environment due to less CO2 being produced via mowers and fertiliser production. In the Parkland areas of grass may even be left to grow as this helps to encourage biodiversity and insects, butterflies and bees.

Be Part of it…

We all know of grass but probably weren’t aware how varied it is. If you're out about along the Greenway this week send in your photos via our social media pages: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or by emailing