Plant Guide > Grasses > Quaking Grass

Quaking Grass


Briza media L.

Quaking Grass, Lady's Hair, Lady's Mantle, Lady's Shoes - to continue the list no further - are examples of wayside plants in which a devout people saw articles of person and attire belonging to the Blessed Virgin.

As patroness of those flowers which are dedicated to her under the name of "Lady" the Virgin has an ever-living wardrobe, including even her nightcap, and furnishing purse and thimble, though for possession of her comb she has to dispute, not only with the ever-beautiful goddess but also with that personage who is reported as going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, and who, with scant use for toilet articles, was evidently thought by our ancestors to have required the same plant for darning needles!

Lady's Hair, or Quaking-grass, is not often seen in American fields, yet it has become sparingly naturalized in the Eastern States where it has escaped from that cultivation as an ornamental grass for which it was brought from Europe long ago.

This grass is a slender perennial, blooming in late spring, and bearing numerous inflated, heart-shaped spikelets of lavender and green, which droop on pedicels so slender that the slightest breath causes them to tremble.

In the old Doctrine of Signatures, which saw more things in heaven and earth than philosophy dared dream, that which shook was a panacea for diseases of trembling, and in older days, in many counties of England, Quaking -grass was gathered to ensure freedom from ague.

Lady's Hair. Quaking-grass. Shaking-grass Briza media L.

Perennial. Naturalized from Europe.

Stem 6'-24' tall, slender, erect. Ligule very short. Leaves 1'-4' long, 1"-2 1/2" wide, flat.

Panicle 1 1/2'-5' long, pyramidal, open, branches slender, not numerous. Spikelets 5-12-flowered, 2"-3" long, purplish, inflated, ovate or heart-shaped, borne on drooping pedicels. Outer scales nearly equal, broad, concave; flowering scales concave, broader than outer scales; palets much shorter than flowering scales. Stamens 3.

Fields and waste places. May to July.

Ontario to southern New England.