Plate 3; Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 7.
Other English names: Meadow Cat's Tail, Herd's Grass.
Botanical description: Timothy is a perennial grass which has a very short rootstock and therefore grows in more or less compact tufts. The stems, which reach a height of from one to four feet or more, are smooth and generally erect. Especially on dry and hard soil the base of the stems is thickened into a kind of bulb, which contains a supply of nutritive matter of a peculiar kind. The leaves, which when in bud are rolled inward from one side, are generally short compared with the height of the plant. The spikelets are arranged in a dense, cylindrical, spikelike inflorescence, each spikelet containing but one flower enclosed in a pair of acutely keeled glumes, which are not fastened together as in Meadow Foxtail. In shape and size the spikes of Timothy and Meadow Foxtail are somewhat similar, but that of Timothy feels rough when touched, whereas the spike of Meadow Foxtail is very soft. When in flower the arrangement of the male and female organs is conducive to cross-fertilization, which is effected by air currents.
Geographical distribution: Timothy is indigenous to Europe with the exception of Turkey. It is also a native of northern Africa and large portions of western Asia and Siberia. It was introduced into North America with the early settlers, and is now generally cultivated throughout the northern United States and the eastern provinces of Canada.
History: Although a native of Europe, the value of Timothy was first recognized in North America. It was brought to Maryland about 1720 by Timothy Hanson, after whom it was named. The name Herd's Grass, which is used in New England, is said to be derived from a Mr. Herd, who found it in New Hampshire and introduced it into cultivation.
Cultural conditions: For cold, moist or wet lands, particularly for heavy clay soils, Timothy is superior to any other grass for hay. It succeeds best on moist loams and clays. It does not thrive on sour lands or on soils liable to become parched during drought, such as impoverished sandy soils or shallow soils over rocks.
Plate 3 Timothy ( Phleum pratense L).
Timothy is essentially a plant of temperate climates and is affected more by conditions of moisture than by temperature. It is very resistant to cold and bears a heavy cover of snow of long duration. Although the root system is rather shallow, it stands drought fairly well; the yields, however, are light under too dry conditions.
Varieties: Timothy includes innumerable types, markedly different from each other and of widely different agricultural value. In places where wild Timothy, or Timothy escaped from cultivation, has established itself, hundreds of types can be found side by side under exactly the same conditions. Giant plants, extremely leafy and consequently of great economic value, may be found cheek by jowl with small, dwarf types with but few leaves and spikes only half an inch long. Open tufts with ascending or almost decumbent stems may be seen in company with dense and bunchy tufts. Pale green, bluish green and bluish red plants may be found growing side by side. Early types, with the basal leaves brown and dead, may occur alongside of late maturing plants with an abundance of green leaves.
Habits of growth: Timothy is rather slow-growing and as a rule medium to late in maturing. It is in flower early in July in the southwest peninsula of the province of Ontario and from the middle to the end of July in Manitoba and northeastern Quebec. The seed is ripe about a month after flowering. If sown with cereals in the spring, it gives a satisfactory hay crop the following year.
Agricultural value: Timothy is used in Canada almost to the exclusion of other grasses, largely because clean seed of strong vitality is generally available at a low price. The expense per acre of seeding is less than with any other grass.
If fed alone, it is of low nutritive value for growing animals or for milk production, because it is deficient in flesh-forming constituents; it is therefore not a profitable fodder by itself for those purposes. A liberal mixture of clover improves it. It is favoured for work horses that have heavy grain rations as well, and, on account of its digestibility, it is the standard hay for livery horses required to work immediately after feeding.
Except on rich, moist lands, it does not by itself develop into a thick stand of plants, and for uplands it is better sown with other grasses or with Red Clover. When a fodder crop is required for only two years in a short rotation, it may be sown alone or with Alsike
Clover on heavy, moist or wet soils, and with Red Clover on dryer and lighter land. By relatively thick seeding a grass of finer texture is produced, which should be cut soon after the spike is well formed and flowering has commenced. If left until late flowering, some increase in yield is obtained at the expense of the quality and feeding value of the hay. When it reaches its maximum growth, the stalk becomes hard and woody. If a second growth is wanted, it should be cut just before the flowering period, as this makes the aftermath greater.
When sown alone, from nine to fifteen pounds of good, fresh seed should be applied per acre.
Timothy is not a desirable pasture grass, except as a part of a mixture. On account of its shallow root system and somewhat bunchy growth, it will not stand tramping as well as other grasses commonly recommended for pasture. In the dryer uplands it will within a few years give place to the native grasses, especially if the fields are allowed to be grazed bare by sheep.
Seed: For a seed crop Timothy should be harvested as soon as possible after the plant has reached full maturity - when the spike turns from green to yellowish. If harvested too early, the seed will be small, undeveloped and of poor germinating power. If harvested after it is ripe, the seed is apt to hull when it is threshed and to lose its bright silvery lustre, thus giving it the effect of old seed.
Timothy is commonly threshed with an ordinary grain thresher, although the best obtainable seed is harvested by hand and threshed by flail. It is grown in the St. Lawrence valley and Georgian Bay district, and the quality of this seed from the standpoint of boldness and bright silvery colour is not surpassed. It is sometimes saved from screenings of fall wheat sown after Timothy sod, but such seed is generally polluted with False Flax and other weed seeds not common in grass lands.
Seed of good quality is of a bright silvery lustre, and only a small amount is hulled. Dull-looking seed is either old or has been harvested or stored under unfavourable conditions. When newly threshed, the vitality of the hulled seeds is not inferior to that of the unhulled; but the naked seeds lose their vitality earlier than those enclosed in seed coats. If fully matured seed is preserved in a cool, dry place, it retains its vitality from three to five years; even when nine years old it gives a high total percentage of germinable seeds, although at that age the germ is usually perceptibly weakened.
The legal weight per bushel is forty-eight pounds.
The great bulk of the Timothy seed of commerce is clean when compared with the seeds of other grasses and clovers. The principal weed seeds to be guarded against when purchasing it are Ox-eye Daisy, False Flax, Mayweed, Sheep Sorrel, Bladder Campion, Perennial Sow Thistle, Canada Thistle, Chickweed and Cinquefoil.
Timothy, like many other species of grasses, is attacked by Ergot (Claviceps). Ergot grains (sclerotia) vary in size and form according to the species of grain or grass on which they develop. The solid bodies are dark purple and may readily be detected protruding from the seedcoat in the spike. Meadows infested with Ergot should not be taken for seed.
Mow your hay in the proper season and be cautious that you do not mow it too late. Cut before the seed is ripe. - Cato, 95-46 B.C.
Here may'st thou range the goodly, pleasant field, And search out simples to procure thy heal, What sundry virtues, sundry herbs do yield,
'Gainst grief which may thy sheep or thee assail.
- Michael Drayton, Eclogue VII., 1563-1631.
When the grass is cut it should be turned toward the sun, and must never be stacked until it is quite dry. If this last precaution is not carefully taken, a kind of vapour will be seen arising from the rick in the morning, and as soon as the sun is up it will ignite to a certainty, and so be consumed. - Pliny, Natural History, 23-79.
If meadow be forward, be mowing of some, But mow as the makers may well overcome. Take heed to the weather, the wind and the sky, If danger approacheth, then cock apace, cry.
- Thomas Tusser, Five Hundreth Pointes of Husbandrie, 1557.
But saltish ground, and what is usually called sour - that is unproductive of corn crops; it is not rendered kindly by ploughing, nor does it preserve to grapes their natural good Qualities, nor to apples their character and name - will give you the following indication. Take down from the smoky roofs baskets of close woven twigs and the strainers of your wine-press. Into these let some of that faulty mould and sweet water from the spring be pressed brimful; you will find that all the water will strain out, and big drops pass through the twigs. But the unmistakeable taste will prove your test, and the bitterness will, by the sensation it produces, twist awry the tasters' faces, expressive of their pain. - Virgil, Georgics, 37 B.C.