Plate 10; Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 16.
Other English names: Blue Grass, June Grass, Spear Grass, English Grass, Green Grass, Bird Grass, Smooth-stalked Meadow Grass, Common Meadow Grass.
Botanical description: Kentucky Blue Grass is perennial with a widely creeping rootstock. This produces runners and leafy shoots. The runners are underground stems, carrying colourless scales instead of green leaves. They creep under the surface of the ground, rooting from the joints and finally producing upright, leafy stems from their ends. The leafy shoots are upright from the beginning and arise in bunches from the very base of the stems. They are round and have at first only leaves but develop later into flower-bearing stems. The stems are from one-half to three feet high, perfectly smooth. The stem leaves are comparatively short, only one or two inches long, and their apex is contracted somewhat after the fashion of the end of a canoe. The leaves of the basal shoots are longer and generally narrower than the stem leaves. Although showing considerable variation in colour, shape and size, the leaves have always this characteristic in common, that the ligule is very short and blunt. The flowers are in a panicle, pyramidal in shape during blossoming time and afterwards more or less contracted. Each branch of the panicle carries several spikelets. These are generally bluish - green-hence the name Blue Grass - but sometimes they have a purplish or violet shade. A spikelet has as a rule four or five flowers, each of which is enclosed within two glumes of equal size. Although the arrangement of stamens and pistils indicates that cross-fertilization would be easy, no doubt much self-fertilization takes place.
Geographical distribution: Kentucky Blue Grass is a cosmopolitan plant, distributed all over the world outside of the tropics.
Plate 10. KENTUCKY BLUE GRASS (Poa pratensis l.).
Thus it is a native of Europe, northern Africa, Siberia and North America. It is also indigenous to Australia and the most southern parts of South America.
Habitat: It grows naturally in practically all localities and is able to live under the most trying conditions. Its natural home is the meadow, but it is also common in other places. Thus it grows along roadsides and borders of woods, on dry hills and in wet marshes, along seashores, at the foot of Greenland glaciers and on the summits of mountains in Sahara. It is largely grown in almost every country where agriculture is of importance.
Cultural conditions: For its proper development, Kentucky Blue Grass requires good soil. Extremes check its growth, and poor, sandy or gravelly soil suits it as little as do hard clays. On bottom lands, where the soil is loose and rich in humus, it attains its highest perfection, especially if the ground contains sufficient lime. In the limestone regions of Kentucky and Tennessee, Blue Grass is regarded as the king of pasture grasses, and it is said in some American states that whoever has the limestone land has also Blue Grass.
Climate: It prefers medium moist conditions though it is resistant to drought. It is extremely hardy, bearing severe frost and a long covering of snow without injury.
Habits of growth: Kentucky Blue Grass is rather slow in getting established. The first year it produces no stems and only a few leafy shoots, appearing in small, scattered tufts. The second year the tufts are less scattered because the underground runners have developed new leafy shoots, occupying most of the room between the branches of the first year's growth, and a few flowering stems have developed. From the third year on, if conditions are favourable, a thick, dense sod is formed, covering the ground entirely. Growth starts quite early in the spring and the plants usually flower about the same time as Orchard Grass.
Agricultural value: If grown for hay, Kentucky Blue Grass should be cut when in flower, its feeding value being greatest at that time. After cutting, it starts rather slowly, and as the second growth consists chiefly of leaves, it cannot be relied upon for a second crop of hay. In mixtures, however, it makes a good bottom grass and adds considerably to the bulk of hay in the first cutting. It is one of the best grasses for lawn making.
Pasture: As a pasture grass it is highly esteemed. It start-early in spring, provides superior feed, is eagerly grazed by all kinds of stock and is of high fattening value. If sown alone for hay or pasture, twenty to thirty pounds of seed should be applied per acre.
Seed: Commercial seed of Kentucky Blue Grass nearly all comes from a few counties of Kentucky, in the heart of the Blue Grass region. It is harvested by hand or by machine strippers which rake off the seed and at the same time collect it. The crop is ready for stripping when the panicles are yellow. The seed is then fairly ripe and when stripped will reach full maturity during the curing process. To cure it, the seed must be stirred frequently, during the first days at least three times a day, to give the air admission to every part and thus prevent heating. If not cured carefully, the seed will take on a grey, dusty appearance and a musty smell and its vitality will be considerably lessened or even completely destroyed.
Quality of seed: Good commercial seed is yellowish-brown. When taken from the spikelets the seeds have a bunch of long, cobweb-like hairs attached to their base. Such hairs are wanting in Canadian Blue Grass seed, and it is therefore easy to separate it from the Kentucky seed when fresh from the spikelets. During curing and cleaning, however, these hairs are generally rubbed off and commercial seed of Kentucky and Canadian Blue Grass are very much alike. As a rule, the seed of the former is sharp-pointed and the nerves of the enclosing glumes distinct, while the seed of the latter is blunt and the nerves of the glumes inconspicuous.
The legal weight per bushel of seed is fourteen pounds.