The grass family, Gramineae (Poaceae), is a diverse, widely distributed group of plants. Its wide distribution and large number of economically important food crops (corn, wheat, rice, sorghum) make the grass family one of the most globally important plant families. Rangelands, principally dominated by grasses, represent nearly one-half of the earth's surface. As rangeland species, they provide tremendous grazing resources, shaped by evolution to withstand grazing, fire, disease, and periodic droughts. They represent the best use for lands that are typically unsuited for tillage agriculture, since most rangelands are too arid, rocky, or rough to be cultivated. Domesticated grasses on the other hand provide the bulk of the basic food resources, and world politics are influenced by production and distribution of corn, wheat, or rice.
The grass family ranks third in number of genera and fifth in number of species among higher plant families with some 620 genera and about 9000+ species. Kansas grasses include some 69 genera and 200+ species, of which 194 species have been included.
This manual is not intended as a taxonomic treatise; rather it is designed as an identification tool. Consequently, the keys are strictly mechanical, and the species are presented alphabetically. In order to use this manual, a working knowledge of certain morphologic characters which aid in differentiation among the many grass species is necessary.
About the Author:
Clenton Owensby, Professor of Agronomy at Kansas State University and specialist in Pasture and Prairie Range Management, is a nationally recognized authority in the field and a widely published author. He offers an enthusiasm and willingness to share his knowledge with his audience, speaking to prairie tour groups, as well as to gardening and historical organizations interested in the native flora of Kansas.