Early summer is one of the freest moments to get outdoors and get some vital vitamin D before the solar rays inch further into the northern hemisphere and cause sunburns.
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This is also the magical time of the year when hay and long grasses are holding up their pollen-decorated flowers and corn in the prairies is busy applying ears.
It is at this time that a thin, spiky-flowered grass reaching the height of a tall man also meets its hour of glory in its short growth journey from spring through summer.
You may have seen it swaying by the roadside or you may actually own it as hay on your farm, or worse case scenario, you may be allergic to its pollen.
Meet Timothy grass, a fiber-rich perennial used as hay across the United States, South America, Europe and other places.
How about timothy grass uses, seed propagation, allergic reactions associated with it and where to find it?
Let’s do this. But first, the definition.
What is timothy grass?
Timothy grass, botanically known as Phleum pratense, is a temperate-region meadow grass. It is the fastest growing of grass types with a short harvest growth-to-harvest cycle, lasting between spring and summer. Its foliage is characterized by flat, rough-textured, spotless, pointed leaves. The flower is perhaps the most recognizable part of the plant. It is spiky, 15 centimeters in height, and full of purplish pollen clusters. This inflorescence contains invisible timothy grass seed in numerous quantities, with a kilogram of such pollen containing 3 million seeds.
There are two varieties, both of which are simply known as timothy grass. The natural grass variety has a bright green shade while the hay variety, or timothy grass cattle, is pale green in color. The grass can grow up to 5 feet in height while the hay type reaches up to 6 feet under the best conditions.
Why is it called Timothy grass (the origins)
The origin of the name timothy grass derives from the botanist who first propagated the plant in the United States at the beginning of the 1700s. His name was Timothy Hansen and it is believed that he first planted the hay in the Southern states. Today, the grass grows naturally and under cultivation on both sides of the Atlantic in cool areas. Its native place is the northern region of Europe.
Hansen brought it from Europe, where it is commonly referred to as meadow cat’s tail or herd grass. Upon its introduction across the Atlantic, colonists in the US, under Hansen’s influence, began farming it as hay. By the mid-1700s, timothy grass seeds had become common in much of the US’ south.
Where does timothy grass grow
Timothy grass grows in cool, wet soils and cannot tolerate drought because of its shallow fibrous roots that only permeate a little of the subsoil. Timothy grass seeds therefore germinate fast in moist regions of the northeast and the Upper Midwest of the US.
Outside Europe and the US, timothy grass also thrives in the Oceania region including Australia and New Zealand. It is also becoming a natural plant in Russia and the Far-east. Some cooler regions of North Africa also promote growth.
You may also like to check the export and wholesale prices for timothy grass in select European countries. Here is the price insights page for the UK.
Conditions for growing this herd grass include:
- A pH range of 5.4 to 6.2.
- A little bit of flood-prone places like meadows is recommended.
- If planting timothy grass seed for the first time, spacing is essential: you can plant it alone at 8 to 10 pounds of seed for 1 acre or 2 to 6 pounds of seed for each acre when grown together with legumes.
In many areas where timothy grass grows, cases of timothy grass allergy are common. The allergy emanates from airborne pollen that may come from many species of grass, including alfalfa and oat grasses, but during summer, it is timothy grass pollen that carries the biggest harm.
Specialists call this species the second most allergic of all farm grasses after orchard grass, particularly because its pollen is often found in the air from the beginning of summer though the start of fall. Some food crops that grow side by side or near this ‘herd grass’ can also cause similar reactions. They range from melons to bananas and nuts, among others.
How does timothy grass look like
Growing to a height of between 0.48 m to 1.5 m (6ft), timothy grass looks like overgrown wheat from far but at a closer look has the following characteristics:
- Seeds: timothy grass seeds lay hidden within the flowers, but when dry, they become exposed. They have a brownish appearance and may resemble wheat grain at a closer glance.
- Flowers: the flowerhead is a statuesque, 15-centimeter long stalk, made up of numerous clusters of flowers with purple-colored hairy stamen. This is the pollen that often causes timothy grass allergy when it flies in the wind. It is often a sight from far, as it usually stands head over shoulders on top of common green foliage around it.
- Leaves: the foliage is spare, smooth, bright green and flat, with shapely, slightly curved pointed ends. The curved interior provides space for the flower stalk to sprout proudly to the top of the plant.
Uses of timothy grass
The main uses of timothy grass is mostly around animal feed. It feeds mostly small domesticated animals such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
Timothy grass cattle feed is also common, particularly for the longer-growing varieties. This hay is also a favorite of horses, which take to its high fiber content. For every small measure, your rabbits and cattle will derive the following nutritional benefits:
- High crude fiber at 32 to 34 percent per serving.
- 8 to 11 percent protein. The fresher the hay, the more the protein, so it is critical to ensure timothy hay does not dry too much before serving it.
- 0.4 percent calcium levels, which are good for animal bone health.
Timothy grass uses are not limited to animal feed. It has also undergone trial as a possible treatment against the timothy grass allergy that it causes. It has featured in a hay fever vaccine production.
Where to find and buy timothy grass in the United States
You can find ready naturally-growing or cultivated timothy grass on the East Coast, with New York and Pennsylvania serving as the biggest product areas in the United States.
Other specific companies with stocks of the grass include: Sam’s Agway in Maryland, Tractor Supply Co., in Connecticut, and Lowe’s Home Improvement in Texas.
For more coverage and information on export and wholesale prices, please refer to the prices insights for timothy grass.
Timothy grass vs hay: the difference
Timothy grass is greener in color in comparison with hay. It is, however, tougher in comparison with such hay as Alfalfa and Bermuda grass.
If you are after nutrients, the content of fiber in timothy grass is greater than that of other common hays. However, its protein levels, though fairly good, are lower than those of alfalfa hay.
Another difference is that timothy is rather tough on livestock’s teeth when cut early from the field unlike other softer hay. But it is good for cattle and horses when harvested a little late as then it will have softened. However, rabbits and guinea pigs love the tough condition of the early timothy grass, which forms the biggest bulk of their staple food.