Grass Identification

by Jean Turner

A guide to identifying grasses. Grasses are most easily identified when they are in flower, using a combination of floral and vegetative features. The structure of the flower heads is quite complex and must be clearly understood in order to be able to identify grasses. A x10 hand lens is useful for this. It is possible (although more challenging) to identify grasses even when they are not flowering. In this case, the structure of the leaves, together with the growth form of the overall plant, become the most important features (see Grass Structure below).

Grasses can quite easily be confused with members of two different families of flowering plants, the sedges and the rushes. The first step in identification is therefore to be sure which of these three superficially similar families of plants the specimen belongs to (see the Introduction below).

The most important features to look for when identifying grasses are given in the 'Ten Tips' section.


Cocksfoot Grass Inflorescence
1. Introduction
General features of grasses
Comparison with sedges & rushes
2. Grass Structure
Plant and Flower Structure
3. Ten Tips for Identification
What to look for when identifying grasses.