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_Indian Agricultural Service, Agricultural College, Coimbatore, and
Fellow of the Madras University_

_Agricultural College, Coimbatore._


Price, 4 _rupees_ 8 _annas_


This book is intended to serve as a guide to the study of grasses of the
plains of South India. For the past few years I have been receiving
grasses for identification, almost every week, from the officers of the
Agricultural and Forest Departments and others interested in grasses.
The requirements of these men and the absence of a suitable book induced
me to write this book.

I have included in this book about one hundred grasses of wide
distribution in the plains of South India. Many of them occur also in
other parts of India. The rarer grasses of the plains and those growing
on the hills are omitted, with a view to deal with them separately.

The value of grasses can be realized from the fact that man can supply
all his needs from them alone, and their importance in agriculture is
very great, as the welfare of the cattle is dependent upon grasses.
Farmers, as a rule, take no interest in them, although profitable
agriculture is impossible without grasses. Very few of them can give the
names of at least half a dozen grasses growing on their land. They
neglect grasses, because they are common and are found everywhere. They
cannot discriminate between them. To a farmer "grass is grass" and that
is all he cares to trouble himself about. About grasses Robinson writes
"Grass is King. It rules and governs the world. It is the very
foundation of all commerce: without it the earth would be a barren
waste, and cotton, gold, and commerce all dead."

In the early days when the population was very much limited and when
land not brought under cultivation was extensive plenty of green grasses
was upon it and pastures were numerous. So the farmer paid no attention
to the grasses, and it did not matter much. But now, population has
increased, unoccupied land has decreased very much and the cattle have
increased in number. Consequently he has to pay more attention to

On account of the scarcity of fodder, people interested in agriculture
and cattle rearing have very often imported foreign grasses and fodder
plants into this country, but so far no one has succeeded in
establishing any one of them on any large scale. Usually a great amount
of labour and much money is spent in these attempts. If the same amount
of attention is bestowed on indigenous grasses, better results can be
obtained with less labour and money. There are many indigenous grasses
that will yield plenty of stuff, if they are given a chance to grow. The
present deterioration of grasses is mainly due to overgrazing and
trampling by men and cattle.

To prove the beneficial effects which result from preventing overgrazing
and trampling, Mr. G. R. Hilson, Deputy Director of Agriculture (now
Cotton Expert), selected some portion of the waste land in the
neighbourhood of the Farm at Hagari and closed it for men and cattle. As
a result of this measure, in two years, a number of grasses and other
plants were found growing on the enclosed area very well, and all of
them seeded well. Of course the unenclosed areas were bare as usual.

In the preparation of this book I received considerable help from
M.R.Ry. C. Tadulinga Mudaliyar Avargal, F.L.S., Assistant Lecturing and
Systematic Botanist, in the description of species and I am indebted to
M.R.Ry. P.S. Jivanna Rao, M.A., Teaching Assistant, for assistance in

I have to express my deep obligation to Mr. G. A. D. Stuart, I.C.S.,
Director of Agriculture, for encouragement to undertake this work and to
the Madras Government for ordering its publication.

For the excellence in the get up of the book I am indebted to Mr. F. L.
Gilbert, Superintendent, Government Press.


_2nd June 1921._


CHAPTER I--Introduction 1
II--The vegetative organs 5
III--The inflorescence and flower 13
IV--Histology of the vegetative organs 19
V--Classification 43
VI--PanicaceŠ 45
VII--OryzeŠ and ZoysieŠ 123
VIII--AndropogoneŠ 138
IX--AgrostideŠ and ChlorideŠ 220
X--FestucaceŠ and HordeŠ 283




Grasses occupy wide tracts of land and they are evenly distributed in
all parts of the world. They occur in every soil, in all kinds of
situations and under all climatic conditions. In certain places grasses
form a leading feature of the flora. As grasses do not like shade, they
are not usually abundant within the forests either as regards the number
of individuals, or of species. But in open places they do very well and
sometimes whole tracts become grass-lands. Then a very great portion of
the actual vegetation would consist of grasses.

On account of their almost universal distribution and their great
economic value grasses are of great importance to man. And yet very few
people appreciate the worth of grasses. Although several families of
plants supply the wants of man, the grass family exceeds all the others
in the amount and the value of its products. The grasses growing in
pasture land and the cereals grown all over the world are of more value
to man and his domestic animals than all the other plants taken

To the popular mind grasses are only herbaceous plants with narrow
leaves such as the hariali, ginger grass and the kolakattai grass. But
in the grass family or GramineŠ the cereals, sugarcane and bamboos are
also included.

Grasses are rather interesting in that they are usually successful in
occupying large tracts of land to the exclusion of other plants. If we
take into consideration the number of individuals of any species of
grass, they will be found to out-number those of any species of any
other family. Even as regards the number of species this family ranks
fifth, the first four places being occupied respectively by CompositŠ,
LeguminosŠ, OrchideŠ and RubiaceŠ.

As grasses form an exceedingly natural family it is very difficult for
beginners to readily distinguish them from one another.

The leaves and branches of grasses are very much alike and the flowers
are so small that they are liable to be passed by unnoticed. The
recognition of even our common grasses is quite a task for a botanist.

To understand the general structure of grasses and to become familiar
with them it is necessary to study closely some common grasses. We shall
begin our study by selecting as a type one of the species of the genus

_Panicum javanicum_ is an annual herb with stems radiating in all
directions from a centre. The plant is fixed to the soil by a tuft of
fibrous roots all springing from the bases of the stems. In addition to
this crown of fibrous roots, there may be roots at the nodes of some of
the prostrate branches. The stems and branches are short at first, and
leaves arise on them one after the other in rapid succession. After the
appearance of a fair number of leaves the stem elongates gradually and
it finally ends in an inflorescence.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Panicum javanicum. (Full plant.)]

The stem consists of =nodes= and =internodes=. The internodes are
cylindrical and somewhat flattened on the side towards the axillary bud.
When young they are completely covered by the leaves and the older ones
have only their lower portions covered by the leaf-sheaths. Usually they
complete their growth in length very soon, but the lower portion of the
internode, just above the node and enclosed by the sheath, retains its
power of growth for some time.

The leaf consists of the two parts, the =leaf-sheath= and the
=leaf-blade=. At the junction of these two parts there is a very thin
narrow membrane with fine hairs on its free margin. This is called the
=ligule=. (See fig. 2.)

The leaf-sheath is attached at its base to the node and it is slightly
swollen just above the place of insertion. It covers the internode, one
margin being inside and the other outside. The surface of the sheath is
sparsely covered with long hairs springing from small tubercles. The
outer margin of the sheath bears fine hairs all along its length. (See
fig. 2.)

The leaf-blade is broadly lanceolate, with a tip finely drawn out. Its
base is rounded and the margin wavy, especially so towards the base. On
the margin towards the base long hairs are seen, and some of these arise
from small tubercles. The margin has a hyaline border which is very
minutely serrate. There is a distinct midrib and, on holding the leaf
against the light, four or five small veins come in to view. In the
spaces between these veins lie many fine veins. All the veins run
parallel from the base to the apex. At the base of the blade the veins
get into the leaf-sheath and therefore the sheath becomes striated. Just
above the ligule and at the base of the leaf-blade there is a colourless
narrow zone. This is called the =collar=.

[Illustration: Fig.

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