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Usually, grass plants are removed from the garden with unhesitating passion. Among invasives, grasses are without doubt the most troublesome. They are so insistent, so hard to control, that they are almost completely prohibited within the deep nature garden. But sometimes I make an exception.

Above is a panicle (flowering stem) of a delicate little grass growing with minty-looking lemon balm in the shade under some bushes.

Grasses are notoriously hard to identify. The one pictured above could be bentgrass (Agrostis or Polypogon) or it might be orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata) or maybe velvetgrass (Holcus lanatus) or even some type of bluegrass (Poa sp.). A detail identification could require close inspection with a hand lens. Whatever it is, it’s pretty and as long as it behaves itself it’s welcome here.

Here is another pretty little grass in the same shady patch, arcing out above a tiny live-oak seedling. This one could be a brome, possibly Japanese brome (Bromus japonicus).

Graceful shapes and subtle hues of green and yellow amply reward close inspection of the nodding flowers.

When this garden was first handed off to me by the previous gardener, it was chock full of crabgrass, fescue, and bluegrass, all left over from the time when the garden was mostly lawn, some years back.

Many hours of pulling were required to remove all the grasses, but there came a time when it was clear that not only had the crabgrass been successfully extirpated, but also almost all other kinds of grass.

To this day, the only grasses that are allowed to grow to reproduction age are small, non-threatening, interesting kinds like these two – and they are watched closely! If they get too big they are drastically limited.

You say you like lawns? Don’t get me started.

It happens almost every year somewhere in the ecogarden. A large, robust grassy plant sprouts up, growing rapidly. Although I usually pull out almost all grass plants because they tend to be incredibly invasive, there are several kinds of grass that might be left alone. One of them is wheat.

This one sprouted in a container alongside verbena and sorrel. All winter it grew, and in early spring it went to seed. Now its huge spikes are nodding, laden with heavy grain. I don’t know where the original seed came from, but this variety of wheat now seems to be a permanent part of the biota in the ecogarden.

There are several species of wheat, with complex genetics. Some have two, four, or even six complete sets of chromosomes. It has been cultivated for at least 11,000 years after originating in the middle east. Like many old food crops, it has been selectively bred by humans until it is distinctly different from its wild ancestors.

This Wikipedia article has lots of great information about wheat and its history.