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This booklet was originally put together for a BSBI Scotland workshop and allows reader to identify the twenty most common grasses on neutral (as opposed to acidic) grasslands in the British Isles. It is aimed at absolute beginnners and therefore contains no identification keys. There is no need for a microscope either to carry out the identification steps described here, a 10× hand lens should be adequate. The second edition includes some new text, quite a few new illustrations and the odd improvement for clarity. It is also physically larger – A5 format (148 × 210 mm) instead of the A6 ( 105 × 148 mm) of the first edition.
There seem to be three things that make identifying grasses difficult. In the first place, they don't have petals you can count, colours you can categorise or leaves that are easily distinguished – they are at first sight so samey. Secondly, the keys used for identifying them have a whole new glossary of terms, and initially appear to be extraordinarily complicated. And finally, there are just so many of them to contend with – about 160 native British grass species.
This booklet introduces you to a mere twenty grass species: those you are most likely to find in neutral grassland. That is, the terrain is grassland as opposed to woodland, heath, bogs, saltmarshes or rocky mountains. It might be a meadow or rough grazing, roadside verge, forest clearing, clifftop, neglected garden, churchyard or similar. And the habitat is neutral as opposed to particularly acid (peat bog, moorland etc.) or particularly base-rich (chalkland, limestone pavement and so on).
These twenty are far and away the most commonly encountered in this sort of habitat. So much so, that if you find anything that is not dealt with here, then it is well worth studying further either the grass or the habitat, or both. One advantage of a sound knowledge of these 20 is that you will immediately be aware when something is nof one of these. Then you may have to embark on keys, or the advice of an expert, to decide which grass it is.