Types of Grasses

Hello,
I'm interested in starting a patch of wildflowers in the lawn. Problem is, I'm not sure what kind of grass I have, whether it's part of the natural landscape or if it was planted there at some point. Could someone help me out? I'd like to know what grasses, native and nonative, there are and Google or a group search didn't help out. Sites that talk all about grasses and have photos should be helpful.
I'm in Zone 7a, Northern Alabama.
Daniel Phillips snipped-for-privacy@toppler.zworg.com [+]bandito[-]spam = [-]toppler.[+]zworg.com Be warned, may mistakingly bounce back as spam.
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http://www.seedland.com/ has several pictures of grass types, but you have to search through the site and they have several broken links.
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If you live within driving distance of a college with a biology or botany department, dig out a sample (6 x 6 inches) and take it there.
-- Don Phillipson Carlsbad Springs (Ottawa, Canada)
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If you've got lawn, chances are you don't have native grasses.

Grasses are often a challenge to identify, especially before they come into flower and fruit. Probably your best bet is to ask your county extension for help identifying what's in your lawn... if you do want to go native, chances are you'll want to nuke the entire lawn and replant. Some info on common lawn grasses in Alabama: http://www.ag.auburn.edu/dept/ay/turfgrass/turf_extension.htm
You might also want to get in touch with the Alabama Wildflower Society: http://www.alabamawildflower.org /
Kay
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Thanks.
By having to nuke the entire lawn, does this mean that any attempts at just making a portion of the lawn wild will cause the march of the non-native grass on the plot of lawn meant for wild grasses and flowers?
Daniel Phillips snipped-for-privacy@toppler.zworg.com [+]bandito[-]spam = [-]toppler.[+]zworg.com Be warned, may mistakingly bounce back as spam.
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Ah, I thought you were going to be establishing a wild lawn, as opposed to a small bed. My error. Still, depending on the lawn grasses you have, you may find your new bed being invaded by your lawn. Bermuda grass, for example, is oft-cussed by gardeners for its invasive properties. I've not lived in the gulf coast states, so I don't have direct experience with what you're growing there, but I've certainly done a fair amount of weeding on newly established prairie plots. Like anything else, if there's bare soil, a plant will move into it. The ones that preferentially move into bare soil are generally termed "weedy".
What are you intending to put in this new bed? Will you actually be using native plants of Alabama, or are you intending to do one of the "wildflower in a can" mixtures? The reason I ask is that most of the "wildflower" mixes are actually loaded with Eurasian species that botanists would term "weeds" because they aren't native, but naturalized... reproducing here on their own, and many of them are pretty aggressive seeders compared to trying to establish native perennial plants from seed.
If you're going the true native plant route, you're probably in for several years of careful weeding -- fewer if you bring in nursery stock, more if you do it from seed. I'm not saying this to put you off the project, but to help you spot some of the potential pitfalls that many advertisers don't tell you about, so you can figure ways around them, and accomplish what you're trying to do with minimal outlays of cash and sweat.
Kay
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land and sort of just sit back to see what grows, trimming and weeding to effect. Should have known better to hope that it would be that simple! But what do you think such a bed would look like in a year or two if I went that route? Very Tall Grass?
I thought that weeds we commonly pull out of our gardens ARE native plants. I guess not? Wow, in that case: I didn't realize that we trashed native species (plant and animal) THAT much! Sad, so even our native wildflowers are in danger, eh? Interesting that nonative things always seem to be the most aggressive--I suppose that comes from hundreds of years of heavy human habitation over in Europe.
I did look on suspiciously at the wildflower mixes I've seen at Home Depot and all, since they looked different than what I've seen on nature trails. No recognizable bloodroot, violets, azaelas, etc. Not to mention that it seemed just too easy! Are at least most sunflowers native in many areas....say, for example, black oil sunflower commonly fed to birds?
I had hoped to start from seed, if not from scratch. Maybe nursery stock would be a better route, but seeds SEEM easier in the short term.
So is there a good list of common weed garden plants out there on the web that someone has bookmarked? I found this: http://www.homestore.com/HomeGarden/Gardening/Plants/Weeds/SNST_Sampler.asp?poe=homestore
It doesn't say what's native or not, unfortunately.
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Tall grass and weeds, mostly Eurasian, most likely. If you're in southern Alabama, you may have fun with South American weeds, too. Stop at any spoils pile that's been sitting around for 6 months or a year, near a construction site, and you'll get a good idea of what your patch would look like.

Nope, non natives for the most part. Yes, it is sad -- that's also part of the loss of native insects, birds, snakes, etc. Weeds can also alter the fire ecology of an area.

Actually, it's more because species that can reproduce quickly are more likely to be transported out of their native area (where they are usually controlled by diseases and animals that use the species), to an area where they have few or no "enemies". I don't know if you're familiar with northern lawns, but northern US gardeners spend a lot of time swearing at dandelions. Big, robust things that seem to takeover overnight. When I met them in England, they were pale shadows of the species I knew all too intimately from spending my childhood digging 'em out of the lawn.
Shipping and agriculture increase the chances of accidentally or on purpose bringing in non-native species. For instance, johnsongrass was brought in deliberately as cattle forage; kudzu as chicken feed. Russian thistle was probably introduced in the wool of imported sheep. Multiflora rose was a rose-grafting understock. Most Queen Anne's Lace is a descendant of cultivated carrot. Ships used to bring soil and rocks as ballast, and dump them when they were picking up heavy cargo. Etc., etc., etc.
There are some weeds that are native to the US -- Canada thistle is another I'm quite familiar with -- but most natives are kept in some sort of balance by the rest of the members of their environment.

All of the true are sunflowers are native -- they're one of our very few native species that have made it to agricultural use.

http://www.homestore.com/HomeGarden/Gardening/Plants/Weeds/SNST_Sampler.asp?poe=homestore Further confusing the issue is that a weed that's a big PITA in one area may not be an issue in another, mostly because of environmental factors. You'll never hear a Montanan complaining of kudzu, for instance, while you don't have to worry about garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolaris). Out here near Portland, OR, some of our worst weeds include Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberry, and English ivy... all brought in "for pretty", all now costing millions of dollars to try to control.
Here's a starter list of "portraits of invasive alien species": http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact.htm The two pdfs at the bottom of the page aren't a bad introduction to weed science.
And here's a report detailing what happens over time as weeds invade: http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact.htm Although it deals with the western states, the same thing happens in every area -- just change the names of the plants and the names of the counties.
Want some help picking native species that will do well in your yard, and look pretty? Look here: http://www.wildflower2.org/index.html and here: http://www.auburn.edu/~deancar /
Kay
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