Remember that song from the 60s?
“Grazin’ in the grass, it’s a gas, can you dig it?”
Hugh Masekela, a trumpet player from South Africa, recorded it in 1968; the Friends of Distinction carried the vocal version of it into the Top Ten in 1969. I thought the lyrics were silly then (still do), but the instrumental is great.
Well, here’s another slant on Grazin’ in the Grass, this one from an article in the 1884 Annual Report of the Maine Board of Agriculture – an extensive inventory (with detailed accompanying plates, two of which I’ve included here) of The Grasses of Maine.
It is astounding...
“The grass family is, without doubt, of far greater importance to mankind than all the other families of plants combined,” wrote Professor C.H. Fernald,
College, Orono. Maine State
According to the (Agricultural) Census report for 1880, there were 1,107,788 tons of hay cut in the State of
Maine in 1879; there were ninety identified species of grasses in at the time. Maine
Their common names read like song lyrics:
White grass, prickle grass; meadow, common and floating foxtail; timothy, herdgrass, thin-grass, fly-away grass, tickle grass, mountain red top, wood reed, Canadian small-reed, Richardson’s feather grass.
There’s salt grass, marsh grass, fresh-water cordgrass;
Bermuda grass, scutch grass, orchard, meadow, quaking grasses.
Each is described thoroughly: There are details of stems, leaves, panicles, spikelets; descriptions of habitats (“grows in wet meadows, bogs near the coast, wet woods and the margins of ponds”); month of seeding, stock preference (“floating manna grass is relished by cattle...”).
The Hon. J. S. Gould (I have absolutely no idea who he was, but with that surname, I’ll run with him) recommends flat-stalked grass; he says that “cows fed upon it, both in pasture and in hay, give more milk and keep in better condition that when fed on any other grass...”
There’s one grass with a series of common names that leaves me as tongue-tied as its Latin Agropyrum repens – remember, these are 1880s common names for one particular grass in
Here goes... witch, twitch, and quitch grass, quick, and quack grass, quake grass and squitch grass.
Say those ten times fast, then fire up the John Deere and get mowing!