Where not to have your picnic

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Wednesday, 8 September 2010 20:30

There are many plants associated with nutrient enrichment such as Nettle and Goosegrass. This grass however, goes one further. It's Wall Barley, an annual archaeophyte species. I have always noticed its association with rough ground but I have only recently realised  how strong a link it has with dog fouling. In nearly every car park, it grows around the edges in small patches next to posts, dog-bins and pretty much any isolated vertical structure a dog could pee against. It almost seems to be a dog-mess obligate! Basically, if you see this grass, there is probably something unpleasant nearby and you should avoid it. Interestingly, it only has an Ellenberg value for N (Nitrogen - in effect an indicator of soil fertility) of 6 compared to 8+ for Nettle. and Goosegrass. So it does not appear to be the nutrients that are the limiting factor. It is most likely the fairly unusual combination of high nutrients and high levels of disturbance that are provided by well walked amenity grassland with heavy dog fowling. Either way, if you stop in a park in a town near you and see this grass, I would have my picnic somewhere else!

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