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What Is Grass?

by Alex Russel, All About Lawns Columnist

Never mind figuring our how to take care of the stuff -- what exactly is grass?

It is something so common in our lives that we take its very existence, and rampant use, for granted. But what is grass and why do we spend so much time obsessing over it?

Grass is the familiar name given to the family of plants known as the graminae. The graminae family consists of over 6,000 species, making it one of the largest in life.
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Grass: The Family

Grass, as a family, isn't limited to being something to just play frisbee on. Rice, corn and oats come from grass plants and most livestock animals like cows and pigs feed primarily on grasses. Bamboo is a grass and so are the plants that make sugar, liquor, bread, and many other staples of the average kitchen table.

Though it may not seem obvious, even lawn grass contains the building blocks of all plant life: stems, roots, leaves, and yes, flowers.

Grass Is A Plant Like Any Other

The flowers are quite obvious in grass plants like corn or even wheat. But in garden grass, you have to get on your hands and knees to see how the grass functions and reproduces.

The secret to grass, if there is one, is the fact that it all its growing takes place from what is known as the crown: a part of the stem that is at or near the surface of the ground.

Adaptability Helps Lawns

Grass is adaptable and relatively easy to garden. You can mow a lawn and as long as the crown level isn't affected, the grass grows back.

Likewise, if you grow grass and slice it from the ground as turf, as long as the crown remains intact, the roots underneath can be sliced through below their tips.

Grass Reproduction

Grass reproduces by the seeding process, but also by stems that emanate from the crown. Stems that grow above the surface are called stolons. Stems below the surface are called rhizomes.

At risk of being incredibly reductive, grass growing is simply about protecting the crown of each grass blade, not unlike protecting the crown in chess actually!

About the Author
Alex Russel is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Since graduating from Syracuse University he has worked at many different media companies in fields as diverse as film, TV, advertising, and journalism. He holds a dual bachelor's degree in English and History.

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