On July 9th, several of us attended a course being run by Dr Deborah Sazer at Carmel Village Hall, which is next to the National Nature Reserve at Carmel managed by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. The course was an introduction to identifying these scary monocots. Several of us admitted that we had been on grasses courses before, but as with many field skills, if you’re not doing it very regularly it doesn’t stay in your brain. As Deborah went through the basic differences which would allow anyone to distinguish between a grass, rush or sedge, it all seemed easy, there’s a simple rule they all follow (Sedges have edges. Rushes are round. Grasses are hollow. What have you found?) apart from the exceptions of course.
Going on to the many parts of grass flower heads, a realisation of the complexity of the subject caused a slight glume (look it up) to descend on the classroom. There are a lot of parts. Morale was boosted though because Deborah had brought in some grass plants for us to have a go at identifying, and a consensus was soon arrived at, but we also learnt that you need to look at several specimens, as not all of them will show the characters you need to see. Many of us were also not aware that for some ID features you need non-flowering stems.
It was an ideal place to run the course, because the superb reserve at Carmel is only a short walk away. We spent a long time out there, finding not only the subjects of the course but also (as a bonus monocot) some greater butterfly orchids.
Nobody can become an expert on grasses in one day, but Deborah managed to show us how to approach identifying grasses and demystify the ID guides that are available. Thanks to Deborah for all the hard work she put in preparing and running the course.
PS – We’ve just posted Deborah’s Dragonflies and Damselflies id course.