Purple Moor-grass (Molinia caerulea)

The Purple Moor-grass changes colour with the seasons.

Scientific Name: Molinia caerulea (L.) Moench 

Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

James Lindsey at Ecology of Commanster, CC BY-SA 2.5 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5>, via Wikimedia Commons

Description / identification 

Purple Moor-grass is a tuft-forming grass which has coarse (4-10mm), upright leaves. Narrow, purple sprays of tiny flowers on long stems are produced between July and September. The leaves are a blue-green colour in the summer, turning a tawny-orange colour in the autumn and pale whitish in winter. The species is very variable, with leaf size and growth form changing as a result of environmental conditions such as wetness and grazing. With its tufted habit and coarse leaves with their characteristic seasonal colours, Purple Moor-grass is very distinctive. 

Habitat 

Purple Moor-grass is found in a wide range of nutrient-poor grassland and wetland habitats, varying from mineral rich soils to acidic peats, in permanently or seasonally wet areas. These include moors, bogs, fens and heathland. 

Distribution 

Purple Moor-grass is widespread in the east, south-west and north of England, Wales and Scotland. It covers many square kilometres of degraded peatland in the uplands, but in Oxfordshire, it is rare. 

Threats 

It is currently classified as Least-Concern. Due to the thick tussocks this grass forms, they have a tendency to survive moorland fires and can thrive. They are threatened by modern farming and poor management practices.