A Handbook of Some South Indian Grasses
Publisher: Sai ePublications
Grasses occupy wide tracts of land and they are evenly distributed in all parts of the world. They occur in every soil, in all kinds of situations and under all climatic conditions. In certain places grasses form a leading feature of the flora. As grasses do not like shade, they are not usually abundant within the forests either as regards the number of individuals, or of species. But in open places they do very well and sometimes whole tracts become grass-lands. Then a very great portion of the actual vegetation would consist of grasses.
On account of their almost universal distribution and their great economic value grasses are of great importance to man. And yet very few people appreciate the worth of grasses. Although several families of plants supply the wants of man, the grass family exceeds all the others in the amount and the value of its products. The grasses growing in pasture land and the cereals grown all over the world are of more value to man and his domestic animals than all the other plants taken together.
To the popular mind grasses are only herbaceous plants with narrow leaves such as the hariali, ginger grass and the kolakattai grass. But in the grass family or Gramineæ the cereals, sugarcane and bamboos are also included.
Grasses are rather interesting in that they are usually successful in occupying large tracts of land to the exclusion of other plants. If we take into consideration the number of individuals of any species of grass, they will be found to out-number those of any species of any other family. Even as regards the number of species this family ranks fifth, the first four places being occupied respectively by Compositæ, Leguminosæ, Orchideæ and Rubiaceæ.
As grasses form an exceedingly natural family it is very difficult for beginners to readily distinguish them from one another.The leaves and branches of grasses are very much alike and the flowers are so small that they are liable to be passed by unnoticed. The recognition of even our common grasses is quite a task for a botanist.