Twelve Astonishing Facts
page 1  2  3

wpe147.jpg (9265 bytes)


1.  Grasses come in a vast range of sizes and types, ranging from lawn grass to rice, wheat, corn, sugarcane and bamboo.
Grasses come in all shapes and sizes. It is estimated that there are about ten thousand different species of grass worldwide.

They vary from short creeping lawn grasses, to waist-high reeds and bamboo plants up to 40m (120 feet) tall.


2.  Approximately 20% of the world's cover of vegetation has grasses as its main ingredient.
20% of the world's vegetation cover is composed mainly of grasses. Steppes, prarie and savannah are ecological formations which all have grasses as one of their main components. They cover vast areas of land. In Patagonia alone (South America), steppes occupy an area 5 times the size of England. In Kazakhstan, Central Asia, steppes cover 27,800 square miles of land. These represent but small portions of the total area covered.
These grasslands are maintained by a complex mix of interacting factors from soils and climate, to fire and grazing animals.

Few other habitats lack grasses of one type or another.


3.  Hundreds of years old?
Some perennial grasses clone themselves year after year, producing new shoots which are genetically identical to those of preceding years. Individual plants of Red Fescue (Festuca rubra) spread via underground stems known as rhizomes. A single plant has been estimated to cover an area 250 metres in diameter. If the annual growth rate is measured, the age of the individual plant can then be estimated. A plant of this size may be over 400 years old.
Some individual grass plants can exceed 8 metres in diameter In clump-forming grasses, enormous clumps can also eventually result. It has been estimated that a large plant of Sheep's Fescue (Festuca ovina), 8 metres in diameter (equivalent to 4 men lying down, head to toe) might be 1000 years old!


4.  Grasses enabled cave men to become farmers rather than hunters!

Grasses occur in almost all parts of the world.

They produce seeds known as grains (for example, wheat, corn and rice). The grains separate relatively easily from the parent plant and so can be collected.

Pastries made from wheat flour. The grains contain high proportions of nutritious oils and starches, making them a valuable food both for humans and for their domesticated animals.

The dry grains can be stored and used later, providing food sources in winter when little else is available. They can also be sown in the ground to germinate and produce new plants conveniently close to areas of habitation.

Today, grasses provide all of our cereal crops, the grazing for our domesticated cattle and sheep, as well as most of the world's sugar.