WATER MEADOW GRASS. 71
half long and almost as broad. Its branches are numerous and carry a great number of spikelets. These are at first yellowish-green but after flowering they are bright brown, sometimes with a touch of purple. A spikelet contains from five to eight flowers, each of which is enclosed by two glumes.
Geographical distribution: Water Meadow Grass is indigenous to almost all Europe and temperate Asia. In North America a closely related species, Glyceria grandis Wats, chiefly distinguished by its smaller flowers, takes the place of Glyceria aquatica and may be of equal agricultural value.
Habitat: Water Meadow Grass occurs along muddy shores of lakes and streams, where it sometimes occupies vast areas to the exclusion of other grasses. It makes splendid growth in shallow waters with loose and swampy bottom, where the creeping root-stocks do not meet any resistance. In dry ground, where the root-stocks cannot develop properly, the growth is checked and the quality of the grass is poor.
Agricultural value: Although stout, Water Meadow Grass is rather soft in texture and can be closely pastured by horses and cattle. Especially when young, the stems and shoots are palatable and greatly relished by stock. They are then sweet and highly nutritious. Although its value as a forage plant was recognized in some European countries in the eighteenth century, it is not extensively grown.
Seed : The seed is scarce and often only the rootstocks are available in commerce. The seeds are broadly oblong. The outer of the two glumes is very blunt and provided with seven prominent nerves. The unhulled seed is generally greenish to yellowish-brown. The hulled seed is shining blackish brown, ovate to oblong, and about the length of Alfalfa seed.
Least of all shall I stand to speak of the care he took in providing that the tenderer
sort of Plants might receive no dammage by the winters cold.—Pierre Cassendi, The Mirrour of True Nobility and Gentility, r592—1655.
The crops of corn die; a prickly forest of burrs and caltrops rises instead, and amidst the trim and healthy grain, wretched darnel and barren wild oats assert their sway. But unless you persecute the weeds by continual harrowing, and frighten away the birds by noises, and with the pruning knife keep down the foliage which shades the ground, and by prayers invoke the showers, alas, in vain w ill you view another's ample store, and solace your hunger with acorns in the woods.—Virgil, Georgics.