Many of us still remember the days gone by when buffalo grass used to be very scratchy, and even today there are still many homes around Australia which still have old scratchy buffalo growing. But by now we would expect all of these old buffalo lawns to be extremely thatched and ready for removal by a bobcat.
So what makes old buffalo grass scratchy and irritating to the skin?
And what makes new soft buffalo grass… soft?
Buffalo Grass Has Barbs On Their Leaf
The reason why old buffalo grass was scratchy was due to microscopic barbs which ran along the edges of the leaf of this grass type. While these barbs can't be seen by the naked eye, they were most certainly there all along, and would cause massive irritation to the skin of children who played on these old buffalo grass lawns.
When we look at these buffalo grass barbs with a microscope, we can see they really do look like sharp little hooks and spikes running along the edge of the leaf, and when we see them this way, they really do look mean!
So its the presence of these barbs on the buffalo leaf which was responsible for the old buffalo grass being so scratchy and irritating.
See these amazing microscopic pictures of buffalo grass here.
Why Is New Buffalo Grass Soft
These days there are many different soft buffalo grasses for sale in Australia, and most of these new soft buffalo grasses are genuinely and equally soft, with no irritation factor.
So what makes these new buffalo grasses soft?
Just as the presence of barbs made old buffalo grass scratchy, its the lack of and change of these same barbs on the leaf of soft buffalo which has removed the scratchy nature of buffalo grasses from yesteryear.
Were All The Buffalo Barbs Removed
Microscopic studies of soft and scratchy buffalo grass has revealed these barbs on buffalo grass to us for the first time, and now we can literally see these barbs for ourselves and with our own eyes.
What we can also see from these same microscopic photos is that even with the soft leaf buffalo grasses, they too still have barbs, but these barbs are now so different that they are no longer irritating. Thus making soft buffalo… soft.
The arrangement of the barbs on new soft buffalo is of a different shape and of a smaller size than with old buffalo grass, thus removing the scratchiness.
However, what we also found from these same photos was that the leaf tip of soft buffalo grasses still retained exactly the same scratchy barbs as old buffalo grass did.
But over time as each leaf matured, it would change its barb characteristics so as to become less scratchy, and soft as a result!
So what does this scratchy leaf tip mean for owners of new soft buffalo grasses?
We all keep our lawns mowed, so this practice also removes those last remaining scratchy barbs at the tips of the buffalo grass leaf, so we never feel them. Even if we allowed our buffalo to become longer and unmowed for longer periods of time, the tiny amount of scratchy barbs left remaining on these tips really is irrelevant. The new soft buffalo lawn is still soft, and non irritating.
Old Versus New Buffalo
As a final note, and because we are talking about old scratchy buffalo, and the new soft buffalo grasses, we really should make one final comment on the progression of buffalo grass in recent years.
From recent buffalo grass turf studies we now have it proven that there are massive differences between old and new buffalo grasses. Not only are the new buffalo grasses soft, but they are also enormously superior in all aspects of turf quality imaginable. And for these reasons, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to ever plant old scratchy buffalo in Australia ever again. The new buffalo grasses are simply so much better.