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Twelve Astonishing Facts
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5.  Grasses are astonishingly tough and hardy
Grasses are a component of tundra vegetation. A variety of grasses can be found from the freezing poles of the earth all the way to the baking equator. They can survive in the most inhospitable of conditions, from the extreme cold of the tundra, to shifting sand dunes and salty water.
There are growing points at each of the grass stem nodes, as well as at the base of the leaf blades (more on grass structure here). As a result, grasses can tolerate levels of grazing and trampling that would kill many other plants. Grasses can tolerate quite high levels of grazing and trampling.


6.  The multi-billion dollar global companies which have developed based on football and other outdoor sports, ultimately depend on the humble grass plant!

Field sports need grass.

Because of their spreading, ground-covering ability and tolerance to trampling, grasses provide the basis for all of our field sports, from football to rugby and from polo to lawn bowls.
Artificial grass surfaces, such as Astroturf, have admittedly been developed. However, they lack many of the properties of grass, probably most importantly, its softness when landed upon at high speed! Artificial turf will tend to give painful friction burns in equivalent situations.

A whole science of groundsmanship has developed around the careful cosseting of turf pitches for important matches.


7.   There are so many different species and varieties of grass, that there is at least one to fit every type of habitat and growing conditions. 
Many grasses interbreed naturally, producing hybrid species and even genera.
Many different cultivated varieties of grasses have been produced by selective breeding. They are easily bred artificially to produce higher yielding varieties. Different types can also be bred to suit specific local climatic and soil conditions.

More information from IGER  The Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research


8.  For most of the world, grasses provide a main part of people's diet.
Wheat provides flour for bread, pastas and pastries. Corn is the staple in many southern parts of the world. In Asian regions, rice is the most important source of starch for people.

In the year 2000, 208 million hectares (1 hectare = 2.5 acres) of wheat were planted worldwide (Wheat worldwide pdf document).

Corn (maize) is one of the most widely planted grains. In 2002, approximately 139 million hectares of maize
(Corn worldwide)

and 147 million hectares of rice (Rice Worldwide) were harvested.


9.  Caterpillars and grain weevils, deer and pandas also grow big and strong eating grasses.
The caterpillars of this Marbled White butterfly feed on grasses. Grasses are the main food of an amazing range of herbivores.

The caterpillars of many butterflies, such as this Marbled White (left), feed on grasses (wild varieties rather than cultivated ones).

Grass seeds are not only prized as food by humans. Keepers of grain stores have a hard time preventing hosts of other animals, from grain weevils to rats, from gorging on the stored bounty.

Larger herbivores, such as deer, include grasses in their diet, while Pandas depend entirely on bamboo for sustenance.

Grass forms much of the diet of Roe Deer.
Pandas eat only bamboo. Having such a narrow choice of food can provide problems for Pandas.

Many bamboo species have a strange synchronization of flowering, where all the bamboo plants in a given locality will flower at the same time. This takes place in regular cycles which can last from 10 - 120 years, depending on species. Once the plants flower, they all then die. It may take a while before new plants are sufficiently developed to feed the local pandas again.