Thursday, 25 Jul 2024

The Basics of Cool-Season Turfgrasses: Growth and Development

Turfgrasses play a vital role in creating a lush, vibrant playing surface for football. But have you ever wondered how these grasses grow and develop? In this article, we will explore the basic structures and growth processes of cool-season turfgrasses, the grass species best suited for the northern regions of the United States.


To truly understand how cool-season turfgrasses function and how they withstand challenges like mowing and traffic, we must first familiarize ourselves with their basic structures. By doing so, we gain insight into their growth and development as long-lived communities.

The Basic Structures of Grass Plants

A fully grown grass plant consists of several key components: leaves, roots, stems, and seed heads. The leaves are long, narrow blades that grow horizontally from the main shoot. They consist of three parts: the blade, sheath, and collar region. The blade is the long, flat portion of the leaf, while the sheath encloses the stem or shoot. The collar region is where the blade and sheath meet, and it may contain structures such as the ligule (a thin piece of tissue) and the auricle (a small piece of leaf tissue).

Turfgrass roots anchor the plant in the ground and absorb water and nutrients. There are two types of root systems: primary and secondary. Primary roots develop from the embryo and take up water and nutrients, while secondary roots, also known as adventitious roots, become more numerous as the grass plant matures.

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Stems in grasses come in three types: the crown, which is a small, white structure protected by leaf sheaths; rhizomes, which are underground stems that can produce new shoots and roots; and stolons, which are above-ground stems that can creep over other grasses and bare spots. Flower stems, usually not seen in turf due to mowing, give rise to seed heads, the flowering part of the grass plant.

Growth and Development

The growth and development of cool-season turfgrasses begin with their seeds. Grass seeds, also known as caryopsis, contain an embryo and endosperm. The embryo contains the beginnings of leaves, growing points, and roots, while the endosperm provides the necessary food (primarily starch) for the developing plant.

Once the seed absorbs water and germinates, a process known as imbibition, the radicle (embryonic root) emerges from the seed coat, followed by the first leaf. This marks the start of seedling development.

As the seedling grows, the first true leaf emerges from the coleoptile, a protective structure. The leaf then elongates and expands, producing its own food through photosynthesis. More leaves emerge from nodes within the plant, growing upward within the folds of older leaves. The stem apex, located at the base of the plant, gives rise to new leaves as the old ones die off.

Root growth is crucial for turfgrass health. Primary roots develop from the seed’s embryo, while secondary roots take over water and nutrient uptake as the plant matures. These roots grow from the root tip, protected by a root cap, and develop root hairs that enhance water and nutrient absorption. Turfgrass roots thrive within a specific range of soil temperatures and require adequate oxygen and good soil structure for optimal growth.

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Stem development in turfgrasses involves the crown, rhizomes, stolons, and tillers. The crown gives rise to leaves, secondary roots, and other stems, while rhizomes and stolons allow for lateral spread and the formation of new shoots and roots. Tillers are shoots that emerge from the crown, increasing shoot density and replacing dying shoots.

Carbohydrates, produced through photosynthesis, serve as the true “food” for plants. Turfgrasses store carbohydrates in their stem and crown tissues, utilizing them for energy and growth. Adequate carbohydrate storage is vital for the plant’s recovery from pest damage, drought, heat, and mower injury.


Understanding the structures, growth, and development of cool-season turfgrasses provides valuable insight into how these grasses create and maintain optimal playing surfaces for football. By appreciating the intricacies of their growth processes, we can better care for and nurture the turf to ensure its longevity and performance.


Q: What are cool-season turfgrasses?

Cool-season turfgrasses are grass species that are well adapted to the northern regions of the United States. They can tolerate low mowing heights and traffic, making them ideal for creating high-quality playing surfaces for football.

Q: How do turfgrasses grow and develop?

Turfgrasses grow through a combination of leaf, root, and stem development. Seeds germinate, roots absorb water and nutrients, leaves perform photosynthesis to produce carbohydrates, and stems give rise to new shoots and roots.

Q: What factors affect the growth of turfgrasses?

Temperature, moisture, nutrition, daylength, soil structure, and oxygen availability all play important roles in the growth and development of turfgrasses. Adequate conditions in these areas promote healthy growth and ensure the longevity of the playing surface.

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Q: How can I care for cool-season turfgrasses?

Proper mowing, watering, fertilization, and pest control are essential for maintaining healthy turfgrasses. Regular monitoring and adjusting care practices based on the specific needs of the grass species will help ensure optimal growth and performance.

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