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.
Though an Arctic type of grass this species is not met with in early deposits, but is found in Temperate and Arctic Europe, the Azores, and Greenland. In Great Britain it is found in every county except Hunts, Northampton, E. Gloucs, as far north as the Shetlands, and up to 3300 ft. in the Highlands, as well as in Ireland and the Channel Islands.
Mat-grass is one of the most typical of heath grasses. It forms patches, as the English name suggests, of wide extent, to the exclusion of all else, on heaths and commons, in the south as well as the north, and on various formations. It grows also at different elevations, and is prevalent not only on stony but also on sandy and even peaty formations.
The plant is densely caespitose, or tufted, with a cushion of close, rigid, radical leaves, and stems which are erect, rigid, finely furrowed, angular, with long sheaths. The leaves below are nearly horizontal. The sheaths are smooth, and the ligule is short.
The spike is bristle-like, solitary, straight, and turned one way, with a slender rachis. The spikelets are distant, the flowering glume is purple and slender, the lower palea has a rough awn, and is short. The flowering glume is rough after flowering.
Mat-grass is 6-8 in. in height. The flowers are at their best in July. The grass is perennial, propagated by roots.
The spikelets are arranged in a single row, and turned one way. There are 3 stamens, the stigma is hairy and does not fall, slender and thread-like, and the spikelets somewhat distant. The plant is anemophilous, pollinated by the wind. The flowers open between 12 and 1 a.m. The stigma is mature first. The spikelets open at the top for the stigma and the stamens to protrude.
The fruit, slightly attached to the panicle and adhering to the palea, is readily blown away by the wind.
Photo. Flatten & Garnett - Mat-grass (Nardus stricta, L.)
Nardus, Theophrastus, is a Greek name nardos, for sweet-smelling ointment, and it is unknown why it is applied to this grass. Mat-grass is known by the names of Black, White, or Wire Bent, Ling, Mat-reed, Nard.
Essential Specific Characters: 344. Nardus stricta, L. - Caespitose, stem erect, rigid, leaves the same, slender, spike unilateral, close, awn short, palea purple.