Grass ID

Grass ID books: getting started

Faith Anstey's Start to Identify Grasses booklet eases you into grass ID, explains how to separate grasses from rushes and sedges, and includes a flowchart to help you identify 20 common species. Available from Faith's website.

The Field Studies Council has a handy fold-out ID sheet for 30 common grasses.

This free vegetative ID to grasses is well worth a look.

Dominic Price's A Field Guide to Grasses, Sedges and Rushes takes a habitat-based approach to ID.

Grass ID books: for more experienced botanists

BSBI Handbook #13: Grasses of the British Isles by Cope & Gray, available as an eBook for £14.00 or from Summerfield Books (RRP £20.00 (plus postage & packing)). Definitive but not for beginners!

Grasses: A guide to their Structure, Identification, Uses and Distribution in the British Isles by C. E. Hubbard. A bit out of date now but the drawings are excellent. Take a look at this note about "Hubbard" by Dr Jonathan Mitchley from BSBI's Training & Education Team.

Colour Identification Guide to the Grasses, Sedge, Rushes and Ferns of the British Isles and north-western Europe by Francis Rose.

There's a field-friendly ID guide to c100 of Ireland’s grasses, rich in rich in photographs and diagrams and containing both a floristic guide and a vegetative key. Available to buy here.

And of course Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles (aka the experienced botanist's Bible) covers grasses too, and for vegetative ID you'll want Poland & Clement's Vegetative Key to the British Flora (it also covers most of the plants you'll find in Ireland).

Grass ID sheets

On the BSBI's Plant Crib page you'll find ID sheets for many grass species and genera, from Arrhenatherum (false oat-grass) and Bromus (bromes) right through to Spartina (cord-grasses) and Trisetum flavescens (yellow oat-grass).

On our Plant ID for experienced botanists page, check out the TEP files, ID sheets for 15 common grass species.

Essex botanist Ken Adams has produced a series of very helpful ID keys to groups of grasses such as fescues, meadow-grasses and bents (Agrostis spp.) There's also a very helpful page showing the structure of grasses. Here's the Index page to all Ken's Keys.

All these files are free to download but if you are using them more widely eg for teaching purposes, don't forget to credit the botanists who produced them!

Social media: help with grass ID

On Facebook: There's a group called 'British & Irish Grasses, Rushes, Sedges & "non-flowering" plants' - it's a private group so you need to ask to join.

On Twitter: Prof Mick Crawley has posted many threads focusing on the identification of plant groups such as grass genera. Scroll down his feed here or type the species name into a Twitter search box (top right) and look out for tweets by Mick.

Other resources for grass ID

Once you have a tentative identification for your grass specimen, it can be helpful to compare it with photos on the internet but ONLY if those photos are correctly ID'd themselves! On our plant ID: getting started page, you'll find a list of websites where the photos have been checked by experienced botanists.

The Field Studies Council Biolinks Team have put together an excellent key to groups of British grasses here - give it a try!

Introduction to grass ID

Grass ID videos

Videos from the series of webinars arising from the Irish Grasslands Project (IGP) are all available on the BSBI YouTube channel - check out the IGP playlist here. To book a (free) space on one of the grass webinars, please visit IGP webpage.

This 35-minute video on grass ID by Dominic Price is well worth a watch.

Tim Rich has also produced helpful short videos about selected grass species.

Find out more on our YouTube channel.