Rye Grass–Lolium perenne, is a very variable grass and can take many forms. Many people will recognise it as the ubiquitous grass seen in improved pastures and the first record of its use in agriculture was by Plot (1677) in his Natural History of Oxfordshire.

I have seen many strange forms of Rye grass but the one in the photo I have not come across before. It is described in the books as  forma ramosum and named by the Danish botanist, Schumacher (1757–1830).

The flowering time of Rye grass depends on light intensity and temperature between 10am to noon and if the weather is not suitable, the plant will delay until after the first subsequent morning with favourable conditions.

Earthworms can bury the seed up to 6″ deep and viability isn’t affected, whereas the viability of Common Bent seed is dramatically reduced after going through the gut. Earthworms seem to be able to discriminate between seeds of different plant species and may play a major role in plant dispersal. Research suggests that worm casts are a stable environment for seeds to delay germination until conditions are suitable.

Photos were taken below the railway arches in the centre of Todmorden. You can see the normal arrangement of unbranched spikelets at the top of the stem but until I bent all the lower branches apart, I was really puzzled what was going on. Each individual spikelet of Perennial Rye grass only has one protective scale (grasses normally have two). The wavy ‘pocket’ of the stem shown on the last photo, substitutes for the inner scale. Yet the uppermost spikelet has 2 protective scales as lies free of the stem.

Normal spikelets at the top of the stem and the flurry of ‘bits’ lower down which shouldn’t be there.

All the congested bits pulled apart, showing a very unusual branching pattern

Normal Rye grass arrangement. In flower and showing anthers protruding