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Lolium perenne Perennial Ryegrass, Flowering Spikelet

Rushes, Sedges and Grasses/R.S. Callow

Manchester University, Day-School, 15th June 2009, 10.00 - 16.00h


Course Outline. Rushes, sedges and grasses are important constituents of the world’s vegetation. Rushes and sedges span a wide range of extreme habitats, from stagnant bogs to arid deserts. They are especially prevalent in subpolar regions. The mountain sedge (Carex bigelowii) is dominant over vast areas of tundra. Grasses prevail in temperate regions where they dominate pastures and the great continental plains. They are essential to the survival of most mammals, including man. Our three principal crop plants are grasses: wheat (Triticum), rice (Oryza) and maize (Zea). Rushes, sedges and grasses resemble each other in being herbaceous plants with linear leaves and small wind-pollinated flowers. The resemblance is sufficient to have given rise to erroneous common names; both ‘cotton-grass’ and ‘club-rush’ are sedges! Close inspection shows the resemblance to be superficial. This day-school will explore the distinctions between these three families and the pathways of divergence within each of them. It will also provide guidance in identification. The course will consist of illustrated talks, practical demonstrations and hands-on experience. It will be supported by detailed notes.

●    Distinguishing characteristics of rushes, sedges and grasses
●    Pathways of divergence between tribes, genera and species
●    Demonstrations of dried and living specimens
●    Guidance in identification
●    Hands-on experience of identification

Pre-requisites: No specialist knowledge will be assumed.


Morning Session:    Ellen Wilkinson Building, Manchester University

10.00    Lecture 1    Distinguishing characteristics of rushes, sedges and grasses

11.00    Coffee

11.30    Lecture 2    Patterns of divergence between tribes, genera and species

12.30    Discussion

13.00    Lunch

Afternoon Session:    Herbarium, Manchester Museum

14.00    Demonstration of dried and living specimens from around the world

15.00    Guidance and hands-on experience in the use of diagnostic keys

16.00    Course ends

As a result of this course, it should be possible for you to:

1.    Distinguish between rushes, sedges and grasses;
2.    Recognise common species of rush and woodrush;
3.    Recognise diagnostic features of sedges;
4.    Recognise diagnostic features of grasses.

Learning and Teaching Methods:

Lectures will be supported by supplementary notes, Power-Point presentations and exhibits of specimens. The use of diagnostic keys will be carried out by participants, under guidance from the tutor. No specialist knowledge will be assumed.

Recommended Books (for consultation):

Clapham, A.R., Tutin, T.G. and Warburg, E.F. (2nd ed., 1962). "Flora of the British Isles". Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Hubbard, C.E. (3rd ed., 1984) "Grasses". Pelican, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex.

Hutchinson, J. (1948). "British Flowering Plants". Gawthorn, London.

Jermy, A.C. and Simpson, D. (3rd ed., 2007). "Sedges of the British Isles". BSBI Handbook No. 1,
    Botanical Society of the British Isles, London. ISBN-10: 0901158356, ISBN-13: 978 0901158352

Stace, C.A. (2nd ed., 1997). "New Flora of the British Isles". Cambridge University Press,
    Cambridge UK. ISBN 0 521 58933 5