This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
Briza media. Alopecurus pratensis.
The Totter-grass differs so strongly in appearance from other grasses that minute description is unnecessary except as an aid in making out the structure. Every child that plays in the meadow singles this out as the most desirable acquisition among grasses, because of its constant tremblings. The inflorescence is a very loose pyramidal panicle, due to the extremely long and hair-like stalks upon which the shining purple spikelets are swung. The empty glumes are two; flowering glumes six to eight. The stem creeps below the surface, and the leaves are flat. The plant is perennial; but there is another species, the Small Quake-grass (B. minor), that is annual. This is not so common a plant, and is found chiefly between Cornwall and Hampshire. It is much smaller than B. media, and has tufted stems; it flowers in July, media a month earlier. The name Briza is Greek, and was anciently applied to some kind of corn.
The Meadow Foxtail (Alopecurus pratensis) bears a general resemblance to Timothy (page 25), to which it is not distantly allied; but from which it differs in having no pale or scales. Its cylindrical panicle is yellowisli-green, with silvery hairs, the branches bearing three to six spikelets. It is a perennial plant, and produces runners. It forms a valuable portion of all good pastures, the herbage being exceedingly nutritive. It flowers in May and June. The name is Greek, signifying Foxtail. There are three other native species in the genus:
I. Slender Foxtail (A. agrestis). Annual. Panicle slender, often purplish, branches hairy, with two spikelets. A wayside weed. May to October.
II. Alpine Foxtail (A. alpinus). Perennial. Panicle ovate, short, ¾ inch, branches with four to six spikelets. Anthers yellow. Rare, near alpine streams, from 2,100 to 3,600 feet. Scotland. July and August.
III. Floating Foxtail (A. geniculatus). Perennial. Stems, procumbent and rooting. Panicle dense, slender. Branches with one spikelet. Anthers purplish. Pools and wet places. May to August.