Plate 16; Seed, Plate 27, Fig. 28.
Other English names: Bald Rye Grass, Wheat Grass, Terrell Grass.
Botanical description: Virginia Lyme Grass is perennial with a very short rootstock and therefore grows in dense tufts. The stems, which are generally from two to four feet high, are numerous and densely crowded, smooth and rather slender, leafy to the top and often tinged with purple. The leaves are long and broad, the colour varying from bright green to glaucous. The lower leaves soon become brown and dry and at flowering time are usually all dead. The flowers are in a spikelike inflorescence. The spikelets are not solitary at each joint, as in the genus Agropyron, but are generally in pairs, making the inflorescence dense and crowded. Each spikelet has two sterile glumes at its base and there are consequently four sterile glumes at each joint. They are thick and clawlike, bent below, and make a characteristic mark by which Virginia Lyme can be easily distinguished from other Lyme Grasses. A spikelet contains two or three flowers, each enclosed within two narrow glumes. The outer flowering glume, the lemma, is awnless or with a short awn at its tip. When the awn is present the whole spike somewhat resembles that of rye; when it is absent the spike is more like that of wheat - hence the names Bald Rye Grass and Wheat Grass.
Geographical distribution: Virginia Lyme Grass is indigenous to practically the whole North American continent. In Canada it extends from Nova Scotia to the Rocky Mountains.
Habitat: It occurs on river banks, along borders of woods and thickets, etc. It is rather common in open woodlands but rare in open ground. This is why it is more frequent in the Maritime Provinces, Quebec and Ontario than in the Prairie Provinces.
Cultural conditions: Virginia Lyme Grass stands drought and severe cold without injury and makes quite a vigorous growth on light, dry soil where many other grasses give a poor return.
Agricultural value: Its agricultural value is rather doubtful. It is nutritive and succulent when young, but it quickly loses its feeding value and palatability as it gets woody and the basal leaves soon dry up and turn brown. If intended for pasture it should therefore be grazed early, and if grown for hay it should be cut quite green - long before the plants have started to flower. Its value as a pasture or hay grass is considerably lessened by its inability to produce a reasonable second growth.
Plate 16. VIRGINIAN LYME GRASS. (Elymus virginicus a.).
When sown alone, fifteen pounds of seed should be used to the acre.
The strain on the soil will be an easy one by alternating the crops, provided only that you are not chary in saturating the parched earth with rich manure, or in scattering unsightly ashes upon the exhausted fields; thus, too, your land is refreshed by changing the crops, and in the meantime there is not the unproductiveness of untilled land. - Virgil, Georgics, 37 B.C.
Where cattle may run about roving at will, From pasture to pasture, poor belly to fill. There pasture and cattle, both hungry and bare. For want of good husbandry worser do fare.
- Thomas Tusser, Five Hundreth Pointes of Husbandrie, I557-
The calicular leaves enclose the tender flowers, and the flowers themselves lie wrapped about the seeds, in their rudiment and first formations, which being advanced, the flowers fall away; and are therefore contrived in variety of figures, best satisfying the intention; handsomely observable in hooded and gaping flowers, and the butterfly blooms of leguminous plants, the lowe leaf closely involving the rudimental cod, and the alary or wingy divisions embracing or hanging over it. - Sir Thomas Browne, The Garden of Cyrus, 1658.
And tryed time yet taught me greater thinges;
The sodain rising of the raging seas, The soothe of byrdes by beating of their winges,
The powre of herbes, both which can hurt and ease; And which be wont t'enrage the restless sheepe, And which be wont to worke eternal sleepe.
- Spenser, Shepherd's Calendar, 1579.
Some of the Ancients, and likewise divers of the Modern Writers, that have labored in Natura Magick, have noted a Sympathy between the Sun, Moon, and some principal Stars; and certain Herbs, and Plants. And so they have denominated some Herbs Solar, and some Lunar, and such like toys put into great words. It is manifest, that there are some Flowers that have respect to the Sun in two kinds; the one by opening and shutting, and the other by bowing and inclining the Head.
........Of this, there needeth no such solemn Reason to be assigned, as to say, that they rejoyce at the presence of the Sun. and mourn at the absence thereof. For it is nothing else but a little loading of the Leavs, and swelling them at the bottom, with the moisture of the Air; whereas the dry Air doth extend them. And they make it a piece of the wonder, That Garden Claver will hide the Stalk, when the Sun sheweth bright, which is nothing but a full expansion of the Leavs. - Bacon. Natural History, 1625.