Whitman is Hardly an Expert in the Poaceae Family

I know 2020 has been less than stellar, and I hate to be the bearer of more bad news, but for all of you who thought Leaves of Grass would be the perfect gift for the farmer in your life, your gift is going to be a dud. 

I ordered it a few months ago because farmers are always pestering me with questions about pasture grass identification, and I needed a good pocket manual, something that I could whip out of my back pocket and refer to in times of doubt. This manual had nearly a five-star rating on Amazon and was a slim volume, only 145 pages. I thought that’s just what I need.

Yikes! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT open and recite anything from this manual in the presence of a big-time cattle farmer, no matter how stumped you are by a strange grass clump. At best, if you live in an area with rocky topsoil, you’ll be quickly stoned to death. At worst, you’ll be left to wander the pasture alone, while the big-time cattle farmer hurries over the horizon to the nearest gas station grill, Lowry’s Country Corner, to insert into circulation the vicious rumor that the local soil conservationist likes poetry. Afterward, you’ll be forced to live the rest of your days as an agricultural outcast and farmers will point and snicker at you at the sale barn and ask you, derisively, if you’ve read lately at any open mic nights.

So, just FYI, Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is not the authoritative source for species identification in the grass family. For a more accurate field guide, I suggest, “Grasses, Sedges, and Rushes: An Identification Guide” by Lauren Brown and Ted Elliman.

10 thoughts on “Whitman is Hardly an Expert in the Poaceae Family

  1. Funnily enough I had my copy of Leaves of Grass out the other week, there wasn’t much about grass right enough but there was a bit about lilacs in dooryards.

    1. I haven’t read leaves of grass in a long time (still have a copy somewhere packed up in boxes), but wonder how much grass Whitman consumed through inhalation while writing it. Apparently, he was quite a fan of a certain type of grass.

  2. Love. I think I need to reread this one, just to make sure there’s no salvageable pointers on herbaceous species ID.

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