How do graesers survive grazing?
The grasses are arguably the most important cultivated plants of humans. They grow in large numbers in the meadows and pastures. They are therefore the most important source of feed for our cattle.
The grass family also includes all types of grain, including rice. At first glance, all the grasses look pretty similar. Even for experts, it is not easy to differentiate between the individual species.
Despite their similarity, the grasses have a wide range of growth forms. There are tall and short grasses. They can grow close together in so-called clumps or rather in loose clusters.
They can also cover the ground evenly. They either form aboveground runners (stolons) or underground shoots (rhizomes), which ensure that the stalks are distributed over a large area.
Grasses are ideally suited to grazing and mowing (the "mowing"). If they are eaten or mowed off, they simply renew themselves at the lower knots. As a result, they are less damaged by the mowing than the meadow herbs. An advantage that is particularly evident on heavily used and frequently mowed lawns.
The herbs have also developed different strategies and forms of life in order to be able to assert themselves in the competition on meadows and pastures. The competition for space and food is kept as low as possible through different growth and flowering times. This is the only way that meadow plants can live together closely.
The annual rattle pot survives the winter as seeds, of which it has produced abundantly. In the spring these start to germinate early and thus gain a head start in growth.
The semi-parasite also uses grass roots. This enables it to bloom as early as May and can usually plant its seeds long before the first hay harvest, which usually takes place in June.
The spring knot flower, which also begins to bloom early in the year, has a similar tactic. It has a bulb that can survive the winter in the ground and now has enough nutrients ready to get the plant to flower quickly.
Before most of the other plants begin to grow, it will have faded again and has formed renewal buds on its bulb, which will sprout again in the next spring.
Most perennial meadow herbs also have aboveground or underground storage organs, for example in the form of thickened rhizomes or sprouts. Thanks to these reserves, the plants that have died above ground survive the long winter - and also the pruning. They form new buds with which they can grow into a new cycle.
A special case among the meadow flowers is the autumn crocus. Outwardly it is very similar to the crocus, but in contrast to the crocus it only blooms in autumn. It survives the winter as an onion in the ground, then forms seeds and leaves in the spring in order to spend the summer as an onion in the ground again.
The meadow plants are significantly weakened by mowing during the growth phase. The second expulsion is usually much less pronounced.
The more often the meadow is cut, the lower the subsequent growth performance of the plants. Plants that have adapted their development to the mowing rhythm in such a way that they are not or hardly affected by the pruning have correspondingly clear advantages.
The pruning also has advantages for small meadow plants, after all they get plenty of sun again afterwards. Thus, with the time and frequency of the cut, humans have a massive impact on the competitive conditions and thus also on the species composition of the meadow.
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