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Grass Identification – Understanding Your Lawn

Posted on January 2, 2015 by Lawn Doctor

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Identifying Different Types of Grass on Your Lawn 

If you want to have a green and lush lawn, you need to know what type of grass you have. After all, things like water use, fertilization, mowing height and mowing frequency, as well as weed and lawn pest control treatments may be dependent upon what type of grass is growing on your lawn. If you incorrectly identify your grass, you could inadvertently end up with the wrong type of lawn care treatment.

If you’ve ever asked the question, “How do I know what kind of grass I have?” then you’re not alone. Here are just a few tips that will help you identify the type of grass that makes up your lawn among the many different types of lawn grass.

Understand your local climate

In many cases, the grass on your lawn didn’t originate from the region where you live. However, it’s also true that grasses are generally connected to your local climate conditions and the area you now call home.

With this in mind, it’s important to note that there are two main grass types: cool-season grass and warm-season grass. Here’s how the United States National Arboretum categorizes each type of grass:

  • Cool-season grasses grow best in cool-seasons, as per the name, and grow best when the temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees.
  • Warm-season grasses do best when the temperatures are between 80 and 95 degrees.

That’s a very general explanation of the lawn grasses you’ll encounter, however, we all know that United States geography and seasonal climates are a little more complicated than that. We can further break down those broad definitions for grass identification into additional zones and grass types in the continental U.S.:

  1. Cool humid zone

This includes the northeastern part of the U.S., northern Midwest, and Pacific Northwest.

  • Bluegrass


  • Fescues
  • Ryegrasses
  • Bentgrass

2. Cool arid zone
This includes drier, more western areas of the Midwest along with most of the western states.

  • Buffalograss
  • Canada bluegrass
  • Wheatgrass

3. Warm humid zone
This includes southeastern parts of the U.S.

  • Bahiagrass
  • Bermudagrass
  • St. Augustinegrass
  • Zoysiagrass

4. Warm arid zone
This includes southwestern parts of the U.S.

  • Bermudagrass
  • Buffalograss

In addition to these areas, there’s also a transition zone you should be aware of. The transition zone includes eastern central and mid-central parts of the U.S., and it is arguably the toughest area to grow grass due to the high temperatures, lack of shade, and potential for droughts. The United States National Arboretum states that no single species of grass is “well adapted for this region,” but any of the above-referenced types of lawn grasses may be growing there.

Generally speaking, looking at the popular varieties of lawn grasses for a particular area can narrow down the question of what grass you may have on your lawn. But, that’s just one factor that can help you. Here are some other things to consider.

Look at the youngest grass leaves

The easiest way to determine a particular type of grass is to look at the youngest leaves of grass, which have not yet expanded, and which come from the center of the shoot. The arrangement of these new leaves is called vernation, and will either be rolled or folded in the bud. This will help you narrow down what kind of grass you have and the right conditions for it. For example, Kentucky bluegrass is rolled, while ryegrass is folded.

Kentucky bluegrass

Look at how the grass grows

The way grass grows – whether it grows bunched together or creeping apart – is also a defining characteristic. Does the grass grow closely together, or does it spread out? Grasses that bunch together include fescue, while those that creep out include centipedegrass.  Some grasses creep out but also have what are called rhizomes or underground stems that help spread the grass’ growth and fill in dead spots. These types of grasses include Bahiagrass. Some grasses, like Zoysiagrass, can be a combination of these growth styles.

Look at what purpose the grass serves

Grass can serve many different purposes. Some grasses are used due to their durability and tolerance for a wide range of temperatures. Other grasses are used because they mix well with different grass types. Does your grass hold up well to a lot of foot traffic? Is it used mainly to look good from afar? Does it bounce back quickly when damaged? All of these characteristics can inform you as to the type of grass is on your lawn.

Look at the whole grass plant itself

Take a closer look at your lawn and you will see the following details that are useful resources for identifying varieties of grass. Purdue University’s Department of Agronomy also has an online turf tool – with descriptions and pictures – to help people determine what type of grass they have.

  • The crown
    • This comes up from the roots
    • It’s at the bottom of the grass.
  • The sheath
    • This comes up from the crown and is connected to the blade.
    • This can be split or fused.
  • The blade
    • This is commonly the part we think of as being grass; the most visible part. The style and number of veins can indicate what type of grass it is.
    • It can be smooth, ridged, or hairy.
  • The ligule
    • This is where the sheath and blade join; it has membrane or hairs that project upward.
    • It can be membranous, hairy, or absent.
  • The collar
    • This is on the backside of where the sheath and blade meet.
    • It can be continuous, constricted, or divided.
  • The auricles
    • If they exist, the auricles are near the ligule, by the collar.
    • They can be long and clasping, short and stubby, or absent.
  • The leaf tip
    • This is at the top of the blade of grass.
    • It can end in a flat point, rounded, or a keeled (boat-shaped) one.
  • Seedhead
    • This is the flowering portion of a young shoot.
    • It can be spike, panicle, or raceme.

Talk to a lawn care professional

Determining grass type can actually get pretty complicated. Since some lawns may have a mixture of grass types, or you may be unsure of which type of grass you have, the best way to find out for sure is to talk to a lawn care service professional, like the folks at Lawn Doctor by using requesting a free quote. They will be able to not only explain which type of grass you have but come up with the right lawn care treatment for your grass and soil to ensure it looks beautiful and stays healthy.

Posted in Lawn Care: How To…

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