Pine Barrens Reed Grass

Pine_Barrens_Reed_Grass_jpgIn ancient times and continuing to today this plant family (Poaceae), commonly known as grasses, have stood between mankind and starvation.  For thousands of years grasses have provided food we eat (wheat, rice, corn, sugar cane, and more) and food for our domestic livestock.  In earlier times grasses were used to make thatched roofs, mats for floors, bedding, and kitchen utensils.  Indeed, some made an entire house of a grass species–bamboo–including water-piping, ladders and furniture. In early man’s culture, selected grasses were used as writing tools and reeds provided flutes and similar musical instruments.  Dyed grasses played an ornamental role as part of costumes worn for ceremonial occasions.  Incense was made from grasses.Children made toy boats, dolls, and other toys with plants in this family.  A good whistle can be made by placing a blade of grass between the thumbs and blowing across it. On the darker side, early man made war using grasses for shafts of arrows, spears, and darts.  Swords and knives could be fashioned from bamboo.  Grain that has molded or have a fungus can be toxic.  Ergot, source of Lysergic acid (LSD), was discovered in a fungus on rye grain.  In the Middle Ages, whole towns in Europe suffered intoxication, insanity and death.  It has been speculated that many of the witches burned at Salem and at other trials, could have been suffering the effects of infected grain.

OtherCommonName:

Nuttall’s Reed Grass

ScientificName:

Calamagrostis cinnoides

Community:

Freshwater Wetlands

PlantStatus:

Native

LifeSpan:

Perennial

PlantHeight:

to 4 inches

FruitingTime:

August to November

Distribution:

Coastal states from Nova Scotia to Georgia ~ Statewide in NJ

FloweringTime:

Late July to October

IdentifyingCharacteristics:

Ear long, white silky hair in earlets, longer on one side than the other. Consider the often quoted rhyme when identifying grasses: “Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses have joints from their tips to the ground.”