Good cultural practices help keep a lawn healthy, but the type of grass in that lawn has a lot of say in its success. Climate, soil and seasonal variations of an area can doom a turf grass that is the wrong variety no matter how faithfully it is watered, fertilized and mowed. Although grasses vary in size and color, several specific criteria can help to easily identify popular grass varieties. Learn how to identify grasses to make good choices for your lawn.
Look at the growing end of the shoot to determine the “vernation” or how the new leaf folds in the shoot. Zoysia grass, bent grasses and seashore paspalum will roll as they develop in the stem. Bluegrasses, St. Augustine, fine fescue and centipede grass grow flat or folded.
Examine the “ligule," the meeting of the leaf blade with the main stem of the grass. St. Augustine, Zoysia and Bermuda have little hairs at this juncture, while Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue perennial rye and tall fescue have none. Rough and annual bluegrasses have filmy membranes in their ligules.
Find the leaf tip and note its shape. Most lawn grasses have pointed tips, but bluegrass varieties (and orchard grass) have “boat-shaped” tips that look like the bow of a canoe. Carpet grass and St. Augustine have rounded ends.
Check leaf texture just above the collar where the leaf wraps around the stem at the ligule. Many cool-season grasses have ridged leaves. Kentucky bluegrass, St. Augustine, centipede grass and seashore paspalum are smooth. Bahia, Bermuda and Zoysia grasses have a few hairs along their edges, while native Buffalo grass is quite hairy.
Determine the propagation method of the grass. Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and bahia grass reproduce by sending out underground “rhizomes” that start new plants. St. Augustine, centipede and creeping bent grasses use “stolons”, above-ground runners that sent out new plants at growth nodules. Bermuda (and hybrids), Zoysia, kikuyu and seashore paspalum employ both types of specialized roots. Several annual grasses, tall fescue and perennial rye grass use neither because they are “bunching grasses” and expand by self-seeding.