Plant Guide > Grasses > Brome Grass > Chess Grass

Chess Grass

Chess GrassBromus secalinus L.

Handsome groups of Chess are frequently seen in old grain fields and on waste land, where this grass appears as a weed, and in midsummer opens heavy panicles of large spikelets.

If every plant is sometime "to be of utility in the arts" Chess has as yet shown nothing but beauty as its excuse for appearing so often where it is least wanted.

The panicles are striking and ornamental, but Chess has met little favour either in this country or abroad.

With gifted imagination, and untroubled by the constancy of Nature, the peasantry of the Old World considered this grass a degenerated wheat, and supplied the missing links in the lineage by assuming sundry transmutations in which a grain of wheat should send up a stalk of rye, and the rye being sown should produce barley, while from barley a Chess should be grown that later, under favorable conditions, might awaken to life under the form of oats.

Even the earlier farmers of this country thought this grass a wheat that had fallen to low estate, and so called it "Cheat."

Chess. Cheat. Bromus secalinus L.

Annual. Naturalized from Europe.

Stem 1-4 ft. tall, erect, rather stout. Sheaths usually smooth. Ligule short. Leaves 3'-10' long, 2"-4" wide, flat, somewhat hairy, conspicuously veined.

Panicle 2'-8' long, pyramidal, branches spreading or drooping, lower branches 1/2'-4' long. Spikelets 6-10-flowered, 6"-10" long. Outer scales unequal; 1st scale acute; and scale obtuse; flowering scales 3"-4" long, obtuse, often downy on upper margins, awnless or bearing a short, straight awn from between the obtuse teeth; palets about as long as flowering scales. Stamens 3.

Fields and waste places, especially in grain fields. June to August.

Nearly throughout North America except in the extreme north.