Tussock (grass)

Tussock grasses or bunch grasses are a group of grass species in the Poaceae family. They usually grow as singular plants in clumps, tufts, hummocks, or bunches, rather than forming a sod or lawn, in meadows, grasslands, and prairies. As perennial plants, most species live more than one season. Tussock grasses are often found as forage in pastures and ornamental grasses in gardens.[1][2][3]

Many species have long roots that may reach 2 meters (6.6 ft) or more into the soil, which can aid slope stabilization, erosion control, and soil porosity for precipitation absorption. Also, their roots can reach moisture more deeply than other grasses and annual plants during seasonal or climatic droughts. The plants provide habitat and food for insects (including Lepidoptera), birds, small animals and larger herbivores, and support beneficial soil mycorrhiza. The leaves supply material, such as for basket weaving, for indigenous peoples and contemporary artists.

Tussock and bunch grasses occur in almost any habitat where other grasses are found, including: grasslands, savannas and prairies, wetlands and estuaries, riparian zones, shrublands and scrublands, woodlands and forests, montane and alpine zones, tundra and dunes, and deserts.

East-Falkland
Tussock-bunch grasslands, dormant season, in the Falkland Islands in the south Atlantic
Konza1
Bunch-tussock grasses in the Konza tallgrass prairie

Fire resistance

In western North American wildfires, bunch grasses tend to smolder and not ignite into flames, unlike invasive species of annual grasses that contribute to a fire's spreading.[4]

Genera

Some examples of genera:

Species

Australia

Geitoneura klugii3
Larvae of the Geitoneura klugii feed on grasses like slender tussock grass, kangaroo grass, and false brome.

New Zealand

Other New Zealand tussock grass:

  • Chionochloa australis
  • C. flavescens
  • Festuca novaezelandiae
  • Poa caespitosa
  • P. colensoi
  • P. foliosa

North America

Bunch grasses:[5]

South America

Africa

Europe

See also

Non-Poaceae tussocks

References

  1. ^ R.H. Groves, R.D.B. Whalley "Grass and Grassland Ecology in Australia" in Flora of Australia Volume 43 Poaceae 1: Introduction and Atlas, CSIRO Publishing, Canberra. "Tussock" grass implies a vertical orientation of the grass clump. In North American usage "Bunch grass" is more specific and defines a clumping, non-rhizomatous or non-stoloniferous growth form, vertical to splayed, and usually perennial with a deeper rooting system than other Poacea.
  2. ^ Crampton, Beecher. "Grasses in California. University of California Press. Berkeley. 1974. ISBN 0-520-02507-5. p. 7 Walker, T.W. 1955 "The Ecology of Tussock Grasslands: Discussion" Proc. NZ Ecol. Soc 3:7 "One fifth of New Zealand carries tussock or bunch grass vegetation, more than other steppes, prairies, or grasslands of the world"
  3. ^ Walker, T.W. 1955 "The Ecology of Tussock Grasslands: Discussion" Proc. NZ Ecol. Soc 3:7 "One fifth of New Zealand carries tussock or bunch grass vegetation, more than other steppes, prairies, or grasslands of the world"
  4. ^ Ellsworth and Kauffman, 2010, Native Bunchgrasses Response to Prescribed fire in Ungrazed Grasslands
  5. ^ "California Native Grasslands Association; access date: 6/9/2010". Cnga.org. 2012-07-20. Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2012-12-23.

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