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ORCHARD GRASS (Dactylis glomerata L.). Plate 8; Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 13. Other English name: Cocksfoot.


Botanical description: Orchard Grass is perennial with a very short rootstock. The stems, which are from two to three feet high, are crowded and surrounded at the base by numerous leafy shoots. The leaves are long, broad and flat, rather soft in texture, and for this reason often overhanging, especially in dry, hot weather. Orchard Grass can be easily recognized, even at a very early stage of development, by the basal shoots which are flat and double-keeled. This peculiar shape of the shoots is due to the leaves in the bud being folded together along the middle line. The flowers are in a short panicle, which as a rule has only two or three stout and rather short main branches. When in bloom the branches spread like the toes of a bird's foot—hence the English name Cocksfoot. During the ripening period they gradually move upward, after the manner of arms being lifted over the head, so as to form a rather narrow panicle. The branches of the panicle are naked below, carrying the spikelets at their top in dense, one-sided clusters. The spikelets are compressed, the one side being slightly hollow, the other rounded. They contain from two to five flowers, each of which is enclosed within two strongly keeled and sharply pointed glumes. The stamens are developed a trifle later than the pistil. Thus there is a possibility of cross-fertilization between flowers of different plants. The flowers of a panicle are, however, very crowded and self-fertilization probably takes place to a great extent.

Geographical distribution: Orchard Grass is indigenous to Europe, the temperate zone of Asia and northern Africa. It was introduced into North America very early. When it was first grown for fodder in England, about one hundred and fifty years ago, the seed was obtained from Virginia. It is now grown in temperate regions all over the world.

Habitat: Orchard Grass grows naturally in meadows, waste places, along roadsides, etc. It occurs in woods as well as in open fields, and is more adapted to shady situations than other meadow grasses. Its frequent occurrence in orchards has given it its name.

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