Plant Guide > Grasses > Velvet Grass

Velvet Grass

Velvet GrassHolcus lanatus L.

The eye is arrested in mid-June by bits of colouring in the fresh meadows, as if on the darker grasses a grayishpink fog rested, clinging in unevaporated clouds where the Velvet Grass blooms.

By waysides and in meadows the soft panicles open, white and gray-green, pale pink and purple, charming in colour, and surely more beautiful than the Yorkshire fog from which the English named the grass.

Soft white hairs clothe leaves and sheaths in a dense pubescence, and from this alone the grass may be recognized throughout the season, for although the ripening stems change to shining yellow the sheaths remain green and retain their velvet-like softness until fall.

The plant is usually about two feet high, though in the Southern States it is often much taller. The long upper sheath is inflated and until the flowers open it encloses the soft panicle which, though richly coloured where the sunlight touches it, is sometimes pale greenish white, even in bloom.

Against the green of early summer grasses the flowers of Velvet Grass are very noticeable, and until September a few plants still bloom and may be found in many locations from the borders of damp thickets to sandy fields and shores.

Doctor Muhlenberg, who did much to bring before the world the agricultural resources of our country, termed this grass "excellens pabulum," but cattle are not fond of Velvet Grass and farmers do not find it worthy of cultivation, save on poorest soils where more desirable species fail to thrive.

Velvet Grass. Salem Grass. Yorkshire Fog. Holcus lanatus L.

Perennial, with creeping rootstocks. Naturalized from Europe.

Stem 1-3 ft. tall, erect. Sheaths and leaves clothed in soft white hairs. Ligule about 1" long or less. Leaves 1'-7' long, 2"-6" wide, flat, very soft, grayish green.

Panicle 1'-6' long, pyramidal, open in flower, downy, greenish white, tinged with pink, rose, or purple. Spikelets 2-flowered, about 2" long, lower flower perfect, upper flower staminate. Scales 4; outer scales slightly unequal, clothed in short white hairs; 1st scale acute or obtuse, 1-nerved; 2nd scale awn-pointed, 3-nerved; flowering scales papery, smooth, the 1st obtuse, the 2nd 2-toothed and bearing from just below the apex a short awn which soon becomes hooked. Stamens 3, anthers white, yellow, or lavender.

Meadows, waysides, and waste places. May to August.

Nova Scotia to Ontario and Illinois, south to North Carolina and Tennessee.