When you think of plants, you most likely think of bright, beautiful flowers. But when you think of grass, flowers are likely not what you think of. Does grass even have flowers?
Like most other plants, all grasses also grow flowers. These flowers are referred to as florets and do not look like the flowers you would see in a bouquet. These flowers, or florets, are how the grass pollinates and spreads its seeds. Rather than relying on pollinators, grasses use the wind.
Although most people come in contact with grass frequently, many know very little about its composition and pollination process. Here you can learn all about what grass flowers look like, what they do, and how they are different from other flowers. Let’s begin!
The Anatomy Of Grass
Grass is often thought to be a simple, boring plant; however, grass and its anatomy can be quite interesting!
Grass grows from a rhizome below the soil surface. This is a modified stem that produces new roots and stems, and helps the grass to spread over time. Grass also spreads by sending out horizontal shoots along the ground called stolons. The rhizomes and stolons connect the blades of grass to the main body of the plant and its root system.
One grass plant has several offshoots, each with its own stem, connected at the roots. These offshoots will eventually separate from their parent plant. The stem of each grass plant is referred to as a culm. Branching off the culm is the grass’s leaves. These leaves are what we often call the blades of grass.
Each blade is either sheathed or sessile. The sheath is the lowest part of the culm that grows into its own blade. Sessile blades are fixed in one place on the culm and do not move. Blades alternate in the direction of growth, much like the leaves of other plants do.
Like other plants, the blades are filled with green chlorophyll. The chlorophyll blades collect sunlight for the plant to create energy through photosynthesis for growth. Now that you know a bit more about the basic anatomy of grass, we can discuss where the flowers play into its growth.
Flowers on some grasses may be easier to recognize than others. For example, some grasses such as corn and wheat are larger and therefore easier to see. Even though these plants have larger flowers, you may still struggle to identify which part of the plant is the actual flower.
When looking at a piece of wheat, you can see a cluster at the top of the stem. This cluster is better known as the spikelet. The spikelet is actually a cluster of florets or flowers. In some grass species, the spikelet will only contain one floret; however, it is more common for grass flowers to grow in groups. Each spikelet is enclosed inside of a set of glumes.
When you think of a flower, you probably imagine something with a round center and petals branching out from there. While less colorful, the grass is not that much different. Grass florets do not have petals; rather, they have what is referred to as bracts. These bracts are essentially a set of scales that surround the flower. Each floret has two bracts: a lemma and a palea. The lemma grows on the outside edge while the smaller palea grows on the inside edge.
Stored inside the palea are the grass’s reproductive organs. The reproductive organs of grass include the stamens, stigmas, anthers, ovaries, lodicules, and pistils. The stamen is the male reproductive organ and is made up of an anther and a filament. The anther is what holds the grass’s pollen.
The female reproductive organ of grass is the ovaries and supports the pistil. The pistil produces the ovule, or better known as the seed. At the top of the pistil is a stigma. The stigma of a flower collects the pollen for the process of germination.
While grass flowers have gone unnoticed in the past, you can now identify them. You can even point out the different parts of the flower to your family and friends.
When Does Grass Flower
Like most plants, grass blooms at a certain time of the year. However, different species of grass bloom at different times of the year. Some grasses flower in early to late spring; meanwhile, other grasses, including most grains, flower in late summer or early fall.
If you want to know when your grass will flower, you first need to know what type of grass you have. Get to know your lawn in this article from Pennington!
The majority of the United States has what is referred to as cool-season grass. These grasses start to flower in late spring or early summer. If you have not seen your grass flower in some time, there is nothing wrong with your lawn. In fact, you may be what is preventing it from flowering.
Some days it can be relaxing to wake up early and mow the lawn. Others it may be the last thing you want to do. If you have not mowed your lawn recently, the grass will likely start to flower.
When grass flowers, it is often referred to as “going to seed.” Although you might assume letting your lawn go to seed would help produce a thicker, healthier lawn, lawn care experts claim it can actually be harmful.
As the grass produces its flowers, it focuses all of its energy on producing healthy seeds. In addition to producing flowers, the grass will stop producing what it needs to repair itself. This will eventually lead to your existing grass becoming weak and dying.
You can keep your grass from becoming weak by providing it with enough water and fertilizer throughout the warmer months. However, lawn care professionals still argue you should not let your grass bloom or “go to seed.”
Flowering stalks can cause the lawn to thin and can be sharp to walk on. Lawn care experts solve these problems by mowing their lawn frequently. They also suggest using a sharp blade at a higher height. This frequent maintenance will help the grass to grow stronger. As you cut down the flower stalks, the grass can use its energy elsewhere.
If it has been a while since you last mowed your lawn, you may need to adjust the blade height some. As a rule of thumb, never cut off more than a third of the grass’s stem.
Never lower the mower blade below the normal height. Although you may assume that cutting the grass shorter will help prevent flowering, it will stress the plant hindering its ability to survive.
Keep your grass healthy by mowing your lawn frequently. Creating and sticking to a mowing schedule can help ensure your lawn receives the frequent trims it needs.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to ensure you will be home every day your lawn needs mowed. If you leave town for a few days, your lawn could begin to flower and thin while you are gone. Hire a law care service or pay the teenager next door to keep your watering and mowing schedule until you return.
How Grass Pollinates
Flowers play a crucial role in the process of pollination no matter what plant they are blooming on. But what role do flowers, or florets, play in the pollination process of grass?
As we know, most flowers are large and colorful to attract pollinators such as bees and flies. These bugs, as well as other pollinators, pollinate the flowers and allow the plants to reproduce. Since grass flowers are not bright in color nor large in size, how does the plant pollinate?
Scientists believe grass florets once looked a lot like traditional flowers. However, over time grass has evolved to be the plant we see today. As the plant evolved, it became less reliant on pollinators such as bees and more reliant on nonliving forces. The primary pollinator of grass is actually the wind. Before the wind can pollinate the grass, the plant must first prepare for pollination. We’ll discuss this process below.
The male reproductive organs responsible for producing and releasing the pollen are the stamen and the anther. Pollen is stored inside of the anthers until the stamens are mature or ripe. At this time, the anthers open and release their pollen into the wind.
This pollen needs to make contact with the stigma of another grass plant to produce grass seed. As we mentioned earlier, this organ is encased in the bracts of the floret. So how does the pollen reach the organ?
Like the stamens, the floret itself must ripen before pollen can enter it. Once ripe, the lodicules (compare to the perianth of other flowering plants), located at the bottom of the ovary, open the floret so that pollination can occur. After pollen reaches the stigma, it germinates and fertilizes the ovule stored inside the ovary. Once the ovule is mature, it is released through the pistil.
This fertilized seed will eventually grow into its own grass plant. The plant that produced the seed will weaken and could potentially die. However, humans interfere in this process, collecting the fertilized seeds. These seeds are then processed and referred to as grains. That is right. The grain that goes into your cheerios grew inside of the floret on top of a grass plant.
In fact, grass–or rather its seeds– is the primary food source for most of the world’s population. These foods include wheat, rice, corn, oats, rye, barley, millet, and sorghum.
Learn more about how grass seeds feed the world from National Geographic here. Once again, there is some room for variation in the process of pollination. Different grass species will likely have processes that differ slightly from each other.
How Grass Grows
If a fertilized grass seed is not collected by humans and then processed into food, it has the opportunity to grow into a new grass plant of its own. This process itself can be interesting to learn.
Although grass is a fairly low-maintenance plant, it still requires a few things to survive. Healthy grass requires plentiful sunlight, abundant water, and nutrient-rich soil. Other factors that will impact grass growth are the presence of weeds, bugs, or diseases.
So long as these conditions are met, healthy grass will grow. However, as we all know, grass can grow nearly anywhere so long as the conditions above are partially met. How many conditions are met will determine how healthy the grass will be and how likely it will be to survive the process of flowering.
Grass growth starts at the roots. After a seed is fertilized, it begins to grow roots into the soil. These roots collect water and nutrients from the soil. If certain conditions are met, the seed will sprout. This sprout will then grow into the actual grass plant. The roots will continue to collect the nutrients feeding the sprout until it can grow into a culm complete with blades and everything.
Once the grass has blades, they assist the roots in collecting nutrients. Each blade of grass is full of chlorophyll. In addition to giving the grass its green color, chlorophyll collects sunlight. The collected sunlight then undergoes photosynthesis to create energy for the plant to grow.
While you may assume grass grows from the tips of the blades, this is not true. Rather, each blade grows from the culm. In other words, grass grows from the bottom, not the top.
With enough energy and nutrients, the grass will begin to bloom–assuming it is not mowed over. The bloom will start with the growth of spikelets filled with florets. If florets are allowed to reach maturation, the processes of pollination, reproduction, and growth will repeat.
Although this may sound like a quick, simple process, watching grass grow actually takes quite a bit of time. If you are trying to grow grass on your lawn, remember this important factor, patience! Do not rush grass growth by overwatering or fertilizing. Ensure the grass receives ample water and sunlight each day and then kick back and relax. It will grow!