Art. XVII.—On Grasses and Other Plants adapted for pasturage in the Province of Auckland, especially with regard to indigenous kinds.
[Read before the Auckland Institute, August 16, 1869.]
So few kinds of grasses have yet been made subservient to pastoral purposes in this province, that a difficulty presents itself at the outset, not in finding kinds likely to prove of permanent value, but in making a judicious selection from those of proved value in other countries, and from those which are truly indgenous to the colony. Rye-grasses (Lolium perenne and L. italicum), meadow-grass (Poa pratensis), timothy (Phleum pratense), round cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata), sweet-vernal (Anthoxanthum odoratum), with the common red and white clovers (Trifolium pratense and T. repens) in variety, comprise the kinds usually cultivated. The black medick, spotted medick, and toothed medick (Medicago lupulina, M. maculata, and M. denticulata), which afford such an abundance of grateful food on some of our volcanic hills and waste places; the dogs-tail (Cynosurus cristatus), the common bent grass (Agrostis vulgaris), the soft brome grass (Bromus mollis), and others naturalized in many places do not appear to have attracted the attention of the agriculturist, although amongst the commonest of cultivated grasses in Europe. Nor have the available native grasses been brought under cultivation, notwithstanding the avidity with which certain kinds are sought after by cattle, a fact which ought, long ere this, to have drawn attention to their cultural value, the more especially from their being less subject to the attacks of caterpillar than most of the introduced kinds. Still less has any attention been paid to the many valuable plants possessing condimental properties, stimulant and aromatic, such as the burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), burnet saxifrage (Pimpinella Saxifraga), stone parsley (Petroselinum segetum), fenugreek (Trigonella Foenum-Groecum), yarrow (Achilloea millefolium), which form so large a portion of nearly all natural pastures, and which are so eagerly devoured by all kinds of cattle. But, in truth, the attention of the most advanced agriculturists has been directed too exclusively to grasses and clovers as pasturage plants, and it is mainly owing to the ravages of the terrible rinder-pest, which has caused greater attention to be turned, amongst other things, to the green food of cattle, that these condimental plants have been brought into prominent notice.
If we examine a piece of natural pasture, such as the sheep-downs of the south of England, we find a close compact growth of various fine-leaved sheeps' fescue grasses, small-growing meadow-grasses, bent-grasses, dogs-tail grass, with numerous small trefoils, and medicks, and especially, with dwarfed plants of burnet-saxifrage, stone-parsley, yarrow, and other stimulant or aromatic plants, which furnishing an agreeable variety to the sheep feeding upon them, are greedily sought after. In richer lands the small sheep-fescues, and meadow–grasses, are replaced by the various meadow-fescues, and the larger meadow grasses, with foxtail, catstail, red and white clovers, black and spotted medicks, cowparsley, mayweed, burnett, and others. The grasses are rarely found alone. Even in the natural pasture of the southern parts of New
Zealand, the grasses are largely mixed with native species of Angelica, Mentha, Dichondra, Lepidium, Nertera, Epilobium, and Oxalis, with many dwarf-growing shrubs.
No attempt has been made, at least so far as I am aware, to utilize the swamps and swampy gullies so common in many parts of the province, or to add introduced kinds to those often found indigenous to such localities. In many places where drainage would be impracticable, or too costly for the means at command, a large crop of nutritious grasses, suitable either for green or dry fodder, might be obtained at little more than the cost of the seed, by the selection of suitable kinds, such as the orange-spiked foxtail (Alopecurus fulvus), the reed-canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea), the meadow-sweet grass (Glyceria aquatica), the floating meadow grasses (Glyceria fluitans and G. plicata), the broad-leaved meadow grass (Poa sudetica), or the native swamp grasses (Hierochloe redolens and Isachne australis), the last being one of the most valuable grasses in the colony. It is obvious that a resource like this is of great value to the newly-located settler of small means, who too often sees his first paddocks fail when most needed, from badly-selected seeds, or the ravages of caterpillar. How many cases of actual failure might have proved ultimate success, had this simple resource been known!
I purpose briefly indicating the principal introduced and native plants adapted for pasturage in this province. It must not however be supposed that the catalogue is intended to be exhaustive. Of the native kinds, only those decidedly preferred by cattle in this province, are mentioned; other forms, especially some of the sub-alpine meadow-grasses, form favourite food in the south.
* * * * * * * *
[Mr. Kirk then describes the characters and qualities of foreign grasses suitable for New Zealand soils, which are classified in the lists appended to his paper.—ED.]
New Zealand Grasses,
All of Which are Found in this Province, and Are More or Less Eaten by Cattle.
Microloena stipoides, Br. A slender-growing social grass, apparently confined to the North Island; closely cropped by sheep, horses, and cattle. In many places it is found growing with Danthonia semi-annularis, and the introduced sweet vernal grass and yellow suckling, forming patches of nutritious pasture amongst the Tea-tree. In several localities near Auckland, these four plants, probably self-seeded, form a large portion of the vegetation of the paddocks.
Microloena avenacea, Br. A coarse-growing kind, common in woods where few other kinds will grow. Eaten by cattle and horses.
Hierochloe redolens, Br., “Karetu.” Common in wet places and swamps, of rather stout habit but sweet and succulent, eaten by horses and cattle. In Mr. Buchanan's “Sketch of the Botany of Otago,” it is considered a grass of the first quality; it appears however to be inferior to Microloena stipoides, which is not found in the South Island.
Isachne australis, Br. Abundant in moist places, swamps, and by river sides, from the North Cape to Waikato, and perhaps much further south. A slender-growing grass, producing a large yield, and eaten with avidity by sheep, horses, and cattle. Certainly one of the most valuable of our native grasses, and would most likely prove an addition to the cultivated grasses of the warmer parts of Europe: a native of Australia, India, and China.
Zoysia pungens, Willd. A small creeping rooted grass, forming a compact turf in places near the sea; it has been observed on sand, mud, and the dry
debris of trachytic rocks; eaten by cattle and sheep, and would probably form pasturage of considerable value for the latter, as the herbage, though short, is sweet and succulent.
Dichelachne stipoides, Hook. f. Common on rocky and waste places and pastures, especially near the sea. Eaten by cattle and horses; in Otago it is ranked in value with Hierochloe redolens.
A grostis oemula, Br. A slender bent-grass, found throughout the islands, eaten alike by sheep and cattle, especially in the young state.
Danthonia semi-annularis, Br. A variable grass found in nearly all soils and situations throughout the colony. Eaten by sheep, horses, and cattle. In Otago considered a good cattle-grass. (See the notes under Microloena stipoides.)
Trisetum antarcticum, Trin. A valuable pasture grass, deservedly con-sidered by Buchanan as a grass of the first quality, for moist pastures; it will probably prove of greater value than the yellow oat-grass of Europe, to which it is closely allied.
Poa breviglumis, Hook. f. A “meadow-grass,” producing a large quantity of nutritious herbage; eaten by sheep, cattle, and horses; found in various localities throughout the islands, especially near the sea; but apparently less common in Auckland than in Canterbury and Otago, where it is considered a grass of the first quality.
Poa anceps, Forst. An excessively variable “meadow-grass,” common throughout the islands, and ascending the mountains to the height of fully 6000 feet. One of its forms growing in swampy woods might easily be mistaken for the common meadow-grass of Europe. Eaten by all kinds of cattle, and produces an abundant crop; frequently found in pastures, especially near the sea. It is probable that some forms of this variable grass are of greater value than others.
Poa australis, Br. var. loevis. A meadow-grass of more slender habit than the last, not common in the north, but avidly sought after by sheep, horses, and cattle. A pasturage of great value, and deservedly ranked of the first quality by Buchanan.
Triticum multiflorum, Banks. and Sol.
Triticum scabrum, Br. Not so common in the North Island as in the South, where it is abundant, ascending the mountains to the height of 6000 feet, and is ravenously eaten by all kinds of cattle.
Helosciadium leptophyllum, A. D. C. A small umbellate plant recently discovered in this island; is greedily eaten by sheep, cattle, and horses; apparently aromatic.
There are reasons for supposing that the time requisite for bringing the different species to maturity is somewhat less than would be required in the British Islands, although not in the same ratio for each species. This interesting point can only be fully determined by a series of observations, extending over several seasons. In selecting grasses for the yield of hay alone, it must be remembered that while the majority yield the best return of hay, both with regard to quality and quantity, at the commencement of, or just prior to, their coming into flower, others, as the rough meadow-grass (Poa trivialis, L.), are most profitable when the seed is ripe, and others, again, as the bent-grasses, yield the heaviest return some time before flowering.
The following selections are based chiefly on soil or situation.
Grasses Suitable for Ordinary Loamy Soils.
[Grasses indigenous to this Province (Auckland), are marked with an Asterisk.]
* Microloena stipoides. Alopecurus pratense, Foxtail. Phleum pratense, Timothy. * Agrostis oemulu. Anthoxanthum odoratum, Sweet vernal.
* Trisetum antarcticum. Arrhenatherum avenaceum. Danthonia semi-annu-laris. Poa pratensis, Common meadow. P. sudelica, Broad-leaved meadow. P. serotina, Late-flowering meadow. Dactylis glomerata, Round cocksfoot. Cynosurus cristatus, Dogsfoot. Festuca pratensis, Meadow fescue. F. loliacea, Darnel-leaved fescue. F. duriuscula, Sheep's hard fescue. Bromus mollis, Soft brome. Lolium perenne, var., Pacey's perennial. Medicago lupulina, Black medick. Trifolium repens, White clover. T. pratense, Red clover. T. elegans, Slender clover. Poterium sanguisorba, Salad burnet. Bunium flexuosum, Earthnut. Achillea millefolium, Yarrow. Pimpinella magna, Large burnet saxifrage. Plantago lanceolata, Rib grass.
For Swamps, Water Meadows, Etc.
Alopecurus fulvus, Orange spiked foxtail. Phleum pratense. Phalaris arun-dinacea, Reed Canary. * Isachne australis. Agrostis alba, White bent-grass. * A. quadriseta. * Hierochloe redolens. * Poa anceps. P. sudetica. Glyceria aquatica, Water sweet. G. fluitans, and G. plicata, Floating meadow. Festuca elatior, Tall meadow fescue. F. loliacea. Lolium perenne, var. Pacey's perennial rye. Trifolium repens. T. pratense. Lotus major, Water birdsfoot trefoil. Plantago lanceolata.
For Clay Soils.
* Microloena stipoides. Alopecurus pratense. Phleum pratense. Agrostis stolonifera, Fiorin. Anthoxanthum odoratum, Sweet vernal. Arrhenatherum avenaceum. * Danthonia semi-annularis. Poa sudetica. P. pratensis. * P. anceps. * P. australis. Dactylis glomerata. Festuca loliacea. F. duriuscula. Bromus erectus, Upright Brome. Lolium perenne, var. Medicago lupulina. Trifolium repens. T. pratense. T. pratense, var. hybridum. T. elegans. Sanguisorba officinalis, Burnet. Petroselinum sativum, Parsley. Carum carui, Carraway. Achillea millefolium.
For Sandy and Gravelly Soils.
* Agrostis oemula. Anthoxanthum odoratum. Trisetum flavescens, Yellow oat. * T. antarcticum. Poa pratensis. P. nemoralis. * P. breviglumis. * P. australis, var. loevis. Dactylis glomerata. Cynosurus cristatus. Festuca pratensis. F. duriuscula. F. ovina, Sheep's fescue. F. rubra, Red sheep's fescue. Lolium perenne, var. Lotus corniculatus, Birdsfoot trefoil. Trifolium medium, Zigzag clover. T. repens. T. striatum, Soft clover. T. procumbens, Hop trefoil. Trigonella Foenum-Groecum, Fenugreek. Medicago lupulima. Pimpinella saxifraga, Common burnet saxifrage. Poterium muricatum, Pitted salad burnet. Petroselinum segetum, Stone parsley. Achillea millefolium.
For Forest Land, After Clearing.
* Microloena stipoides. Phleum pratense. Milium effusum, Wood millet. Anthoxanthum odoratum. Trisetum flavescens. Arrhenatherum avenaceum. * Danthonia semi-annularis. Poa pratensis. * P. breviglumis. * P. anceps. Dactylis glomeratus. Festuca loliacea. F. duruiscula. Lolium perenne, var. Trifolium repens. T. striatum. T. pratense. Medicago lupulina. Poterium muricatum, Pitted salad-burnet. Bunium flexuosum. Pimpinella magna. Achillea millifolium.
* Microloena stipoides. * M. avenacea. Milium effusum. Poa nemoralis. P. trivalis. Pimpinella magna. Trifolium elegans. * Apium leptophyllum.
For Dry and Rocky Places Accessible to Sheep.
Cynosurus cristatus, Dogsfoot. Poa compressa, Flat-stemmed meadow. * Agrostis oemula. * A. Billardieri. * Danthonia semi-annularis. Festuca rubra. F. ovina. Medicago lupulina. M. denticulata. Petroselinum sativum. Pimpinella saxifraga. Poterium muricatum. Achillea milifolium.
For Sandy and Muddy Places: (Especially Near the Sea.)
* Zoysia pungens. * Poa breviglumis.
For Places Occasionally Overflowed by the Sea.
Sclerochloa distans, var. obtusa. S. maritima.
For Planting on Clay Soils, Amongst Manuka, Etc.
Stenotaphrum glabrum, Buffalo grass.
It may safely be asserted that the best pastures in the province would be improved by a mixture of some of the condimental plants mentioned, say at the rate 3 lbs. of seed to the acre, or 2 lbs., if a large proportion of yarrow is used, with a few pounds of such of the fescues and meadow-grasses as may be best adapted to remedy existing defects.
There is little doubt that superior varieties of the best of these grasses—forms more closely adapted to our precise requirements than anything we at present possess—will be obtained with comparatively little difficulty, when the attention of the agriculturist is systematically directed to this point. The rye-grasses, fescues, and meadow-grasses, in particular, exhibited, in nearly every species, wide variations in the yield and habit of growth; and it is by successive selections of the best of these variations, and carefully noticing any cultural peculiarities that may have influenced their production, with a view to future adaptation, that improved forms will be fixed and perpetuated.