This small booklet was originally put together for a BSBI (Scotland) workshop on the identification of common grasses. The guide is aimed at absolute beginnners and as such focuses on 20 common grasses found on neutral (as opposed to acidic) grasslands in the British Isles and contains no identification keys but uses a flow chart to separate out the features of these 20 grasses. There is no need for a microscope and a 10× hand lens should be adequate.
There seem to be three things that make identifying grasses difficult. In the first place, they don’t have petals you can count, colours you can categorise or leaves that are easily distinguished – they are at first sight so samey. Secondly, the keys used for identifying them have a whole new glossary of terms, and initially appear to be extraordinarily complicated. And finally, there are just so many of them to contend with – about 160 native British grass species.
This booklet introduces you to a mere twenty grass species: those you are most likely to find in neutral grassland. That is, the terrain is grassland as opposed to woodland, heath, bogs, saltmarshes or rocky mountains. It might be a meadow or rough grazing, roadside verge, forest clearing, clifftop, neglected garden, churchyard or similar. And the habitat is neutral as opposed to particularly acid (peat bog, moorland etc.) or particularly base-rich (chalkland, limestone pavement and so on).
These twenty are far and away the most commonly encountered in this sort of habitat. So much so, that if you find anything that is not dealt with here, then it is well worth studying further either the grass or the habitat, or both. One advantage of a sound knowledge of these 20 is that you will immediately be aware when something is nof one of these. Then you may have to embark on keys, or the advice of an expert, to decide which grass it is.