The grass family is considered the most successful of flowering plants with about 9000 species. The main reason for their survival is that they grow quickly and soon produce seed. Their shape and structure require very little space and if trampled upon generally regain their upright position. They even continue growing after being heavily grazed on by animals.
More than a fifth of the earth is covered by grasslands, like for example, the prairies of north America and the Savannahs of Africa. These grasslands provide precious food for huge grazing herds of animals.
Most grasses do not have a woody stem. The most important feature of grasses is that they have joined hollow stems. Their leaves are long and narrow. Most of them are annual and die after producing a large quantity of seeds. The flowers are small and inconspicuous. They are born on an inflorescence. They do not have petals to attract insects, nor do they have nectar or scent, as they are wind-pollinated. The anthers hang on long stalks outside the flower and release pollen grains. These are carried by the wind to the feathery stigma of another flower.
Several species of the grass family are cultivated for their food value. These are the cereals like the rice, wheat and maize and millets like the jowar, bajra and ragi.
Another important grass is the sugarcane, which is an important source of sugar and jaggery. The bamboo grass, with its woody stem, is ideal as building material and in making paper. Lemon grass is used to perfume soaps and to flavor curries. Other grasses are used for making thatches for huts.
Sabai grass is also used for making paper. Grasses like the pampa grass and fountain grass are grown in gardens for their beautiful showy flowers. Of course we know the importance of grass as fodder for our cattle.
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