Plate 5; Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 9.
Other Latin name: Agrostis alba L.
Other English names: Fiorin Grass, Creeping Bent-grass, White Bent-grass.
Botanical description: The name Red Top has been used for two species of the genus Agrostis - A. stolonifera L., which is also called A. alba L., and A. vulgaris With. A. stolonifera and A. vulgaris are two distinct species but are often confused. Plants known as Red Top have often been described by American and Canadian writers under the name of A. vulgaris, which is comparatively rare in America and of little agricultural value. As the description in such cases is not of A. vulgaris, but evidently of A. stolonifera, the latter species must be considered the true Red Top. The following description consequently refers to A. stolonifera, which is common all over North America.
There are a great number of widely different varieties of Red Top. It is strongly perennial with a creeping rootstock which generally sends out runners. Although these are sometimes underground, as a rule they creep along the surface, rooting at the joints and producing numerous leafy shoots. On account of the creeping character of the rootstock and the runners, Red Top does not grow in tufts but forms a dense, continuous sod. The stems vary in the different varieties. In some they are only a couple of inches high, while in others they reach a height of four feet or more. Only varieties of the latter type are important from an agricultural standpoint. The leaves vary in size, number and colour. Their ligule is always long and generally acute. The flowers are arranged in a panicle with numerous branches. When in bloom the main branches of the panicle as well as the secondary ones are spreading; and as their length gradually decreases towards the top of the panicle, the latter has the shape of a pyramid with a broad base. When flowering is over, the secondary branches lie appressed to the main branches, and the latter, as a rule, to the main stem. After flowering, the panicle is therefore often contracted and narrow. The numerous spikelets are often reddish-brown - hence the name Red Top. Each spikelet contains only one flower. At blossoming time pistils and stamens develop together, and both self- and cross-fertilization are thus possible.
Geographical distribution: Red Top is indigenous to all European countries, northern Africa, northern and central Asia and
Plate 5 RED TOP (Agrostis alba L.).
North America. Its cultivation began in England about two hundred and fifty years ago, but it is only since the middle of the last century that it has been commonly grown in Europe.
Cultural conditions: Red Top grows naturally in all kinds of localities. Some of the varieties persist in light, sandy soil where little moisture is available, but they make a poor growth and have no agricultural value. Other varieties make a luxuriant growth in wet places and are of great importance. As the yield depends almost entirely upon the growth of the creeping root system, the grass does best in soil where the roots can develop freely. This they will do in light and wet soil, whereas in heavy dry land the rootstocks and runners become short and rather unproductive. Red Top makes a splendid growth in a moist climate. It is therefore suitable for low ground not far from the seashore. It is very resistant to cold.
Habits of growth: In proper soil it makes a good growth the same year it is sown. It starts comparatively late in spring but when once growing it keeps on until late in the fall.
Agricultural value: When mixed with other species for hay, Red Top makes a splendid bottom grass and will grow in places too wet for most other grasses. On account of its slow start, it has not as a rule reached full development when the other grasses in the mixture are ready to cut. On the other hand, it produces leaves and stems until late in the fall and is valuable where a second growth is required for pasture. It is liked by all kinds of stock and stands tramping very well, being even induced by it to send out a greater number of rootstocks and runners. It quickly develops into a dense and even sod, but if allowed to grow too long in one place it may be difficult to suppress. It is especially valuable for lawn-making. If used alone, twenty pounds of good seed should be sown to the acre.
Seed: When grown for seed it should be harvested when the seeds are easily rubbed out. Commercial Red Top, as a rule, contains a great amount of chaff. So-called recleaned seed is nothing but ordinary seed from which some of the chaff has been removed. Ordinary commercial seed is reddish brown with a silvery sheen. The more silvery the lustre, the less the chaff and the heavier the weight. When the proportion of chaff is large, the weight is rather low, sometimes not more than eight pounds per bushel. Recleaned seed containing little chaff may weigh as much as thirty-five pounds a bushel. As a rule the seed germinates well as it retains its vitality for several years.