Prairie Grasses: Identified and Described by Vegetative Characteristics

Most of the 107 grasses described and illustrated in this book are native species that grow on the rangelands of the Prairie Provinces of Canada. Several have been introduced from other countries and they are grown for hay and pasture on cultivated land. A few are persistent weeds in grain-fields and pastures. Some are abundant throughout the prairie region; others grow only in narrowly defined habitats. Many are valuable forage species in southern British Columbia, Eastern Canada, and Northern United States, as well as in the Prairie Provinces.

It is often necessary to identify a grass before it has flowered, after flowers are no longer present, or, indeed, even after some of the plant has been eaten by animals. Such a need is met by this publication. It provides a key that makes use of vegetative characters only. These characters are present in the roots, stalks, and leaves of grasses.

This information is presented in five sections:

Preface and Bibliography
The Grass Plant
How to Identify a Grass
Index of Latin Names
Index of Common Names

This book is a revision of Technical Bulletin No. 50, by S. E. Clarke, J. A. Campbell, and W. Shevkenek, published in 1944 and reprinted as Publication No. 762 in 1950. It was entitled The Identification of Certain Native and Naturalized Grasses by their Vegetative Characters. Contributions are gratefully acknowledged from the original publication and from The Identification of Certain Native and Naturalized Hay and Pasture Grasses by their Vegetative Characters, by F. S. Nowosad, D. E. Newton Swales, and W. G. Dore, Macdonald College Technical Bulletin No. 16, 1946.

In the 1971 edition, by Keith F. Best, Jan Looman, and J. Baden Campbell (and under the present title), diagrammatic drawings were added, the key was simplified, and all the descriptions were rewritten. In the present reprinting three species have been added.

Since the last reprinting in 1977 K. F. Best and J. B. Campbell have retired, and Mr. Campbell is now deceased. The continuing need for this publication is a tribute to their work.


Chase, Agnes. 1959. First book of grasses. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. 127 p.

Hitchcock, A. S. 1951. Manual of the grasses of the United States. Second edition, revised by Agnes Chase. United States Department of Agriculture Miscellaneous Publication No. 200. United States Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1051 p.

Hubbard, W. A. 1955. The grasses of British Columbia. British Columbia Provincial Museum. Department of Education Handbook No. 9, Victoria, B.C. 204 p.

Looman, J. III Range and forage plants of the Canadian prairies. Agric. Can. Publ. In press.

Looman, J.; Best, K. F. Budd's flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces. Agric. Can. Publ. 1662; 1979; 863 p.

Moss, E. H. 1959. Flora of Alberta. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. 546 p.

Nowosad, F. S., D. E. Newton Swales, and W. G. Dore. 1946. The identification of certain native and naturalized hay and pasture grasses by their vegetative characteristics. Macdonald College Technical Bulletin No. 16. Macdonald College, Que. 78 p.

Scoggan, H. J. 1937. Flora of Manitoba. National Museum of Canada Bulletin No. 140, Biological Series No. 47. Canada Department of Northern Affairs and National Resources, Ottawa. 619 p.

United States Forest Service. 1937. Range plant handbook. Prepared by Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 942 p.

Other Documents in the Series

  Prairie Grasses: Identified and Described by Vegetative Characteristics - Current Document
Prairie Grasses: The Grass Plant
Prairie Grasses: How to Identify a Grass
Prairie Grasses: Index of Latin Names
Prairie Grasses: Index of Common Names
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Linda Hunt.
This information published to the web on March 19, 2004.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 5, 2015.

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