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48   FODDER AND PASTURE PLANTS.

MEADOW FOXTAIL (Alopecurus pratensis L.).
Plate 4; Seed, Plate 26, Fig. 8.

 

Botanical description: Meadow Foxtail is a perennial much resembling Timothy. It has a short rootstock, which produces scaly, underground runners. The ends of the runners develop into stems and leafy shoots. If the runners are very short, as they generally are in comparatively dry soils, the whole plant becomcs tufted almost like Timothy. If the runners grow to any consider-able length, as they often do in wet and loose soil, the tufts are looser and less marked. The stems are from two to four feet high, sometimes knee-bent and rooting at the base. They are smooth and leafy to above the middle. The bulk of the leaves is produced by the basal shoots. They are generally long, broad and soft, the sheaths of the upper ones often being swollen.

The flowers are in a spike rather like that of Timothy. The spike of Meadow Foxtail can, however, always be easily recognized by its softness; that of Timothy is rough. The softness of the spike, which has given the plant its name, is due to the spikelets being covered with long, soft hairs. Each spikelet contains a single flower enclosed within two acutely keeled glumes, which are fastened together at their base. The flower carries an awn at its back, the awns projecting above the top of the spikelets and giving the spike a bristly appearance. Fertilization being accomplished by means of air currents, there is a chance for self- as well as cross-fertilization. The latter is the more common on account of the arrangement of the stamens and pistil during flowering.

 

Geographical distribution: Meadow Foxtail is indigenous to the greater part of Europe, northern Africa and central and northern Asia. It is distributed throughout eastern and central Canada and is now grown in practically all European countries. It occurs naturally in moist meadows, marsh lands, along ditches and streams with low banks, and generally in moist soil rich in nutritive matter.

 

Cultural conditions: Although preferring wet localities, Meadow Foxtail cannot be grown successfully where water remains stagnant the greater part of the year. It thrives best in low-lying clays and loams which are temporarily flooded. It is extremely resistant to frost and is regarded as the earliest grass for eastern Canada. It starts early in spring and has reached full development


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