This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol5-6", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
This graceful but rare grass is found in the N. Temperate Zone in Europe, N. Africa, Siberia, but not in any early beds. In Great Britain it is found in W. Cornwall, N. Hants, W. Sussex, throughout the Thames province, Anglia, except in Hants and Northants in Salop, N. Lincoln, Derby, S.E. York, or from York to Kent, and Hants in S.E. England.
The Silky Wind Grass grows in the lowlands, in fields liable to inundation at no considerable distance from the sea. It is areno-philous, preferring a sandy habitat, and is a submaritime ericetal species. It is also common to rocky mural habitats in the same way as some other sand-loving grasses.
This is a tall, graceful, elegant plant, with a slender stem which is prostrate at the base, and then erect and tufted. The leaves are rough along the margin and below, flat, and either smooth or downy. The ligule is short and torn.
Photo. H. Irving - Silky Wind Grass (Apera Spica-venti. Beauv.)
The flowers are in whorls, in a large spreading pyramidal panicle, which is both light (hence the Latin name since every wind sets it blowing) and graceful, with branches at right angles. The slender awn is long, being 3-4 times as long as the palea, which is surrounded by a tuft of hairs below, and silky, giving the plant the English name. The anthers are linear and oblong, and the glume is hairy.
Silky Wind Grass is 2-3 ft. high. The plant flowers in June and July, and is annual, propagated by seeds.
This graceful grass is bisexual and anemophilous. There are 3 stamens in the male flowers, and the anthers are linear. The styles are short and distinct, and as in other grasses the stigmas are feathery. The flowers open about 6 a.m.
This grass is a sand-loving plant growing on sand or loam.
Apera, Adanson, is from the Greek aperos, undivided, in allusion to the flowering glume; Spica-venti, Lobel, is Latin for spike of wind, because the panicle is constantly agitated by the wind.
Silky Wind Grass is also called Corn Grass and Windlestraws. Gerarde explains the second name thus: "Some in English, much agreeable to the Latine name, call these windle straws. Now I take this to be the grasse with which we in London do usually adorne our chimneys in summer time. And we commonly call the bundle of it handsomely made up for use by the name of Bents." Corn Grass he explains thus: "Gramen segetale, either of the likenes it hath with corne, or that it groweth among corne".
Essential Specific Characters: 331. Apera Spica-venti, Beauv. - Stem tall, flowers in spreading panicle, slender, awn three times as long as the palea, with hairs on each side.