Grasses: Living Legacy Landscapes

"Sedges have edges, rushes are round, grasses have joints when cops aren't around."

Despite what many permaculturalists may preach, grasses are, in fact, useful - sure, not the typical Bermuda grass found rhizomatically (and systematically) taking over land everywhere; nor even the acres upon acres of cultivated grass seed right here in the Willamette Valley - rather the life-giving legacy of this truly remarkable and maligned plant.

Seeing the Woods, a blog by The Rachel Carson Center, highlights the glory of grass by following the patterns noticed within the deeply beautiful and ancient cultures of central Asia:

[grasses] represent the co-evolution of humans and nature over thousands of years where nomadic pastoralism has been the dominant form of land management and way of life...

They go on to mention the importance and value of pastoralism (free range grazing and land management) as an integral role in our society's ecologies:

Pastoralism is a “quiet” system where the subtleties associated with management are inextricably linked to local knowledge of an extensive ecological and social network over time and place. The rhythm of the grasslands is connected to seasonal change and cycles of life and death no less dynamic than the virtual world.
The grasslands of Mongolia – these living legacy landscapes – have been molded by pastoralists and climate over thousands of years. This is the central question to consider as we face the increasing decline of pastoralism across the globe – the known and unknown contributions that grasslands and these specific livelihoods provide to the global commons of a healthy environment.

We love using grasses in our permaculture designs! From food to fiber, these old plants have endless benefits to any living landscape. Sometimes folks mention 'grasses' when referring to all different types of plants - a good way of remembering this is: Sedges have edges, Rushes are round, Grasses have joints when cops aren't around. 

1. Sedges (have edges) - a great erosion control plant, boundary species and bioswale companion

2. Rushes (are round) - Rain garden species, bio-filtration plant and habitat for native insects

3. Grasses (have joints when cops aren't around) - From bamboo which is a wonderful food, shade and building material to corn, the food of life - all effective foods and ecological guild members.