Grass is everywhere. It covers lawns, open fields, playgrounds, and countless other green spaces. But where does grass seed come from? Does it just appear after a while? Or does it come from grassroots? As widespread as the grass is, not many people know or understand where grass seed actually comes from.
Grass seed actually comes from the inflorescence. The inflorescence is a cluster of flowers grown from grass once so many leaf blades sprout from a grass plant. After grass reaches the optimal size, the stems elongate and bloom the inflorescence as a response to temperature, weather, and other growing conditions.
In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about where grass seed comes from, how it’s harvested, and how you can produce your own grass seed. We’ll also hit you with some wild facts about how the state of Oregon and the grass seed industry are related.
Table of Contents
- Does Grass Have Seeds?
- What Are Grass Seed Heads?
- How is Grass Seed Harvested?
- How Does Grass Seed Reproduce?
- Do Different Types of Grass Reproduce Seeds Differently?
- Do Grass Seed Farms Exist?
- Where is the Most Grass Seed Produced?
- Can You Produce Your Own Grass Seed?
- Does Genetically Modified Grass Seed Exist?
- Final Thoughts
Does Grass Have Seeds?
When we think of grass, the immediate thought that comes to mind is the sprawling green we see on the front and backyards of residential homes everywhere. We think of the open green space at our local parks and playgrounds before we actually think about where it comes from.
Although we usually associate grass with the green blades we see everywhere, grass does, in fact, come from seeds. Regardless of the grass species, all types of grasses produce seeds that are monocotyledonous. This means that grass seed consists of a single cotyledon or the veins you see in herbaceous plants.
With that said, the average person may not see a grass seed sprout unless they refrain from mowing their lawn long enough to “let their grass go.” Typically, the growing time for grass before you notice seed heads is between 20-30 days from the last time you mowed.
Learn what the fastest growing grass is in our guide here.
What Are Grass Seed Heads?
Seed heads on a grass lawn is a naturally occurring process that generally can’t be avoided. In general, seed heads refer to the part of a plant that develops a flower head. So, when your grass is long enough to develop grass flowers, that’s when you’ll notice a seed head appear.
With grass, the seed head will usually start out with a green or yellow color. However, as time passes, it will turn browner and browner until the head falls off. Once the head falls off, the seeds can either be harvested or they will disperse in the ground to create more grass.
How is Grass Seed Harvested?
In general, grass seed is harvested only at the commercial level. However, it is possible to harvest grass at your home. In fact, doing this is the only way to ensure the new grass that you end up growing matches the grass already present in your lawn and backyard.
To harvest grass seed, here’s what you need to do:
1. Leave your grass alone. Instead of mowing your lawn when you normally would, it’s important to wait between 20-30 days. This will give the grass time to grow to the optimal size for seed harvesting.
2. Check on your seed heads. After the 20-30 day time allotment, check the seed head color. Rather than green, they should be yellow or brown before you harvest the seeds. Check the seed head for readiness by pulling a stalk and lightly hitting it against your hand. If the seeds are released, they’re ready for harvest. If they don’t release right away, try again one more time. If they do on the second try, harvest within the next few days.
3. Pinch the stalk. Lightly hold the seed stalk in your hand and pinch just beneath the seed head.
4. Slide your hand upward. While keeping the pressure from pinching, slide your hand upward to release the seeds. The pressure put on the seed head will force the seeds out into your hand or collection container.
5. Repeat steps 3 and 4. Do this until you finish with each stalk of grass ready for harvesting.
6. Mow your grass. The first time you cut the grass, mow no more than one-third of its height. Repeat mowing every couple of days until the grass is back to its desired height.
After harvesting your grass seed, make sure you keep it somewhere cool and dry until you’re ready to use it. Exposing grass seed to negative conditions can hinder growth rates and encourage the growth of mold and mildew.
Commercial grass harvesting may require the use of heavy machinery and vehicles. But, growing and harvesting grass in your own home can easily be done by simply using your hands and a container or plastic bag. However, keep in mind that manual harvesting definitely takes a lot of manual work.
How Does Grass Seed Reproduce?
Grass flowers may contain both male and female reproductive organs. These organs are present either in separate grass flowers or they can both reside within a single grass plant. For the most part, grass flowers will go to seed when pollen from another compatible grass plant is shared with it.
Grass seeds generally develop ovaries once they’re given shared pollen from another grass flower. Pollen is usually spread between grass plants either through insects, birds, or wind.
Do Different Types of Grass Reproduce Seeds Differently?
There are two ways grasses will reproduce seeds: via rhizomes or through stolons. Rhizomes generally spread throughout the soil and grow outward beginning at the base of a plant. Tillers, or new shoots, grow upward from those rhizomes, therefore creating a new grass plant.
When a tiller grows out from a plant, it has the potential to grow its own inflorescence. With that said, grass that is grown through rhizomes generally only grows in areas where there is plenty of moisture to go around. It’s harder for rhizome-growing grasses to grow in dry conditions because the lack of water prevents them from spreading efficiently.
On the other hand, grass that is grown through stolons comes from the lateral stems that grow above the soil. These stolons produce grass from the crown at the base of the original grass plant.
In some cases, you may have grasses that grow in both ways, through stolons and from rhizomes under the ground. If you want to maintain your grass and keep both types of grass from growing out of control, be sure to mow your lawn on a regular basis.
Do Grass Seed Farms Exist?
There are grass seed farms spread out all throughout the United States. Although the grass seed business is present throughout the country, the grass seed capital of the world, the state of Oregon, really takes the cake. In fact, grass seed crops are grown on more than half of the harvested cropland in the Willamette Valley in the state of Oregon.
Where is the Most Grass Seed Produced?
Oregon is generally considered the biggest producer of grass seed. In 2017 alone, Oregon was responsible for over 600 million pounds of grass seed grown during the cool season. At this point, there are over 950 types of grass grown throughout the state of Oregon, with the species grown on more than 400,000 acres of land statewide.
Oregon is responsible for growing most of the United States’ supply of annual ryegrass. Along with that, growers in Oregon are known for growing perennial ryegrass, bentgrass, fine fescue, Kentucky blue grass, orchard grass, and tall fescue.
Can You Produce Your Own Grass Seed?
Regardless of whether you want to do so commercially or for your own use, anyone can produce their own grass seed. All you really need to do so is your own two hands and a container or bag to hold the seeds in after harvesting.
With that said, the amount of grass and the size of your growing space will definitely dictate whether or not you’ll want to use additional machinery. In most cases, a combine is used when growing and harvesting commercially.
But, if you’re only growing on a small area of your property, you should easily be able to do so with your hands and a container. Keep in mind though, doing the work manually will be tiring and time-consuming.
Does Genetically Modified Grass Seed Exist?
Scotts’ Miracle-Gro had been working on a species of genetically modified grass for years when it escaped the testing area. The company had been trying to eradicate it from the area for a decade before deciding to give up on the task altogether.
This particular GMO grass seed was designed to be resistant to Roundup, the herbicide used to kill most pest plants. These seeds originated at their test area in Idaho before jumping over the river and ending up in the state of Oregon.
The grass proves a pretty significant issue to the Department of Agriculture in Oregon as the grass seed business is considered a billion-dollar industry in the state, also known as the “grass seed capital of the world.”
This altered grass now stretches over a significant part of the state and the burden has been shifted from the company to the citizens of Oregon to fight off.
Who knew grass actually produced flowers? This isn’t something we’d normally think of, but it makes sense considering the seeds need to come from somewhere. By allowing your grass seed to grow for 20-30 days before mowing, you have the potential to grow and harvest your own grass seed to keep your lawn replenished and looking full for a lifetime.
We hope this article has been helpful for you and you leave with all of your burning questions about the origin of grass, answered.
Jamie is the founder of The Backyard Pros. When he was 15 years old he started working at a garden centre helping people buy plants, gardening products, and lawn care products. He has real estate experience and he is a home owner. Jamie loves backyard projects, refinishing furniture, and enjoys sharing his knowledge online.