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    Grass Class


    Scientific illustration often involves hours of sitting alone, staring at plants through a hand lens.  Getting out, especially spending time with like minded people who share your interests is a tonic.

    IAPI organise a Grasses day out

    IAPI (the institute for analytical plant illustration) is a fabulous organisation for botanists, botanical illustrators, and anyone interested in these disciplines.  On September 21st I go along to their masterclass on grass, presented by the Summerfields of Westshores nurseries.   This couple specialise in growing, selling, and propagating grass since 1996.

    John and Gail Summerfields of Westshores Nursery

    Differences between reeds, sedges, and grasses

    First, we are reminded of the difference between reeds, sedges and grasses.  Reeds are round with open sheaths, 2-3 ranked, with solid node-free stems.  Sedges have edges and closed sheaths.  Their leaves are 3-ranked, and the stem (culm) is solid and node-free.  Grasses are round with (usually) open sheaths, 2 ranked leaves, and a hollow cylindrical culm.  Grass stems have nodes.

    We then discuss different genera of grasses, and get to examine them under the dissecting microscope.


    We are shown examples of the seven main genera of ornamental grass, and see photos of specimens from each.

    Ornamental grasses in Britain

    All have to be hardy to survive in the UK, and the Summerfields are experts on what traits you find in their different grasses.

    The seven genera are: Panicum and Miscanthus (both tough plant groups.  These species have long-lasting panicles which look gorgeous after the seeds are spread).  Then Pennisetum which prefer the warm season, and Calamagrostis which thrive in cooler, well-drained soils.  We have Molinia which are tufty and hardy.  There are some large species classed as Stipa; and finally Eragrostis which are very hardy and like well-drained sites in direct sun.

    Drawing sketchbook studies of grass

    I draw some of the specimens.

    Sketchbook study of Calamagrostis brachytricha AGM

    I am delighted by one of the grasses; Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum”.  This is because it has such enormous flowers that it is easy to see the details under the microscope.  Its  dramatic red feathery stigmas are particularly note worthy.


    Pennisetum setaceum “Rubrum” sketchbook study

    C4 and C3 grasses

    We discuss grass anatomy, and have a fascinating talk by Peter Mitchell about C4 and C3 grasses (more of which in next week’s blog).   We get to buy  ornamental grasses provided by the Summerfields.

    As I drive home, I amagain delighted by just how happy these IAPI meetings make me.  Other people are also passionate about botanical illustration, and ar ewilling to share their expertise and knowledge.  It’s a fabulous organisation and I’d suggest any British botanical artists join.

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    Lizzie Harper