So often, my writing here is sparked by comments of visitors to Highfield, and so again, it is the case with this post. Two recent visitors to Highfield, when walking with me through a paddock covered in native perennial grasses, have asked, “Do you have perennial grasses here?”
The most recent inquirer was an interested novice – a person that had done some reading about holistic grazing or regenerative grazing and the importance of perennial grasses in those grazing systems. I answered, “Yep”, and bent down to my feet and picked the flowering head of Microlaena stipoides or Weeping Grass.
Weeping Grass is an incredibly useful grass being tolerant of shade, low soil pH, and tolerating low fertility and drought. It is highly palatable to our sheep and cattle, and it is easy on the eye, being bright green. It is probably THE most important native perennial grass at Highfield. I showed him the distinctive weeping head and the pinched top to their leaves so he would find it easy to identify next time.
The other time I was asked this question (while walking through a paddock heaving with perennials), I was surprised by the question because the inquirer was a self-confessed holistic or regenerative grazer on a nearby property. I was surprised because I thought as a dedicated holistic grazer, the inquirer would be able to see that the whole paddock was covered with perennial grasses.
Surely as a holistic grazer, the inquirer would be able to identify perennial grasses that were so important to their grazing system – the very grasses that their grazing was designed to foster? How could you be a holistic grazer whose system depended on fostering perennials and not now be able to identify the grasses in their paddocks and in mine?
It got me thinking – perhaps it was that the inquirer didn’t know the grasses in their paddocks at all?
Given their farm’s proximity to ours, the inquirer would have the same native grasses as us. Perhaps the word ‘perennial grasses’ was a buzzword used to ‘signal’ that the inquirer was a holistic grazer but used without any knowledge of which grasses were perennial at all. Perhaps it was a test for me.
I could have bent down and picked the flowering head of one of at least seven species at my feet and said, “Yes, of course, see – here is weeping grass, and here is redleg, and there is some native lovegrass,” etc. I was anxious not to embarrass the inquirer by pointing the grasses out. When I thought that this knowledge was a must for holistic grazers. Instead, I just answered, “Yep, heaps of them’“.
LISTING OF NATIVE PERENNIAL GRASSES ON HIGHFIELD
So here, I have listed just a few of the native perennial grasses we have at Highfield – in case it’s useful for anyone. Ive concentrated on posting images of the seedheads as this is the easiest way of identifying grasses.
Described briefly above. This is one of the main native perennial grasses on Highfield.
This is such a beautiful grass. In this image above, you can clearly see its red ‘legs’ The flowers are a bit like windmill grass flowers but instead of being sprayed out like a windmill or umbrella, the ‘arms’ of the flower stand up tall.
There are a number of different species of Windmill Grass, easily identifiable by the ‘windmill’ shape of the flower heads.
Most obvious when they are flowering because of their soft white fluffy seed heads.
In their flowering stage, they can look a little like wallaby grass, but once you get your eye in looking at the green form of their flower heads, you will easily identify them.
Oh so pretty in the wind, their delicate flower heads shimmer in the breeze. So pretty, but they are not called spear grass for nothing. When the seeds shed from their flowering head, they have a very sharp end and can easily cause you to throw away your socks.
The mature seed head is quite distinctive and also quite raspy to the touch. Again most easily identified at this dry flower head stage.
There are a few different species of this, too – all with the distinctive ‘plume’ of a seed head.
Elsewhere I have written an entire post on Themeda – Kangaroo Grass which is growing splendidly here.
Hopefully, this will help you identify some of the native perennial grasses on your property if you live anywhere from Taralga and Booroowa in the north to the Victorian border in the south and east to Braidwood and west to Wagga.
You don’t need to be a botanist or have a hand lens swinging from your neck or be able to pronounce the Latin names. These images and others you can find online make identifying the grasses your livestock are eating easy. After all, shouldn’t you know what your livestock are eating?