Friday, June 18, 2010

Common Farm Plants

If you’re going to manage an area for native plants, you’ve got to know how to identify the non-natives. Blue Jay Barrens has a history of being farmed and like most farms in this area, had several common species of agricultural plants sown into the fields. These are non-native plants that have been used so extensively that you are likely to find them anywhere. It’s been 25 years since any of these have been planted here, but they still persist in the fields. The bloom above is that of Red Clover, a common clover of hay and pasture fields. The head is composed of individual flowers called florets.

Red Clover is a legume, like beans or peas, and has the typical three part leaf. Each leaflet displays a “V” shaped mark that points away from the stem. Since this is such an important agricultural plant, breeders have developed many varieties of Red Clover. Differences in plants are often a result of the many varieties that have been developed to satisfy the many conditions and uses.

These are probably the top three grasses found on livestock or hayland farms. From the left are seedheads of Orchard Grass, Timothy and Tall Fescue. The clumped spikelets of the Orchard Grass always remind me of bells on a jester’s staff. Once you’ve seen it, Tall Fescue is usually easy to identify by the clump of super tough leaves. Tall Fescue and Orchard Grass are cool season grasses that flower early in the spring and Timothy is not far behind. This puts most of the common farm grasses far ahead of native grasses normally found growing in open fields.

Timothy has an enlarged portion of the subterranean stem base called a corm. This feature can be used to confirm identification if there is no seed head present.

Orchard Grass has compressed sheaths enclosing the seed stalk. Non flowering specimens are even more flattened.

I didn’t find any cute or impressive creatures making their home on any of these plants. This tick was very interested in my presence. Every time I got near, it raised its front legs at me just like a child begging to be picked up


  1. I hope you didn't pick the tick up, purposefully or unintentionally. I'm pretty brave when it comes to bugs and critters, but ticks give me the chills. ~karen

  2. Karen - This tick was successfully left in the field, but I managed to bring in a few others. I'd much rather deal with ticks than chiggers. At least with ticks I can get rid of them before they become attached. Chiggers are more of a next day affliction. You don't know you've been in a mess of them until the next day when the bites begin to itch.