I am reasonably confident at identifying wild flowers and have recently started looking at grasses. I'm trying to use "Collins guide to the grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns of Britain and Northern Europe" (Fitter, Fitter & Farrer 1984) but am really struggling.

The first two questions in the grass key are "annual/perennial" and "creeping, rhizomatous, stoloniferous or solitary/clearly tufted". I have no idea (short of waiting a year) how to tell if a grass is perennial or not - even uprooting plants there seems to be little difference. And in extensive grass cover with multiple species I find it very hard to tell whether a grass is tufted or not. It doesn't help that some species (e.g. perennial ryegrass) are apparently both stoloniferous and tufted.

I'm loath to abandon the book: the coverage and format are excellent; and other grass ID books are out of print and very hard to find.

Does anyone have any tips on answering these two questions in the field, or on using this book in general?

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My usual method is to work through some of the options downstream of the questions with unknown answers. It helps to have some idea of what you are likely to find in the area, but it isn't entirely necessary. I also find grasses quite difficult personally, as there seem to be a lot of features that aren't immediately obvious to my eyes. It might help to join a local naturalist (not naturist - those tend to be the ones without clothes) group who often go out on botanical surveys etc.

The working through downstream options will normally lead to you being able to rule out some fairly obvious groups, or lead to questions that are obviously not relevant to your sample.

As these are the first two questions in the key, this makes it quite a bit harder to do, but it should still be possible, especially if you have some familiarity of the common species.

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