A feature of the pre-European landscape of the sub-tropical Richmond River district of north-eastern New South Wales was a large expanse of rainforest known as the Big Scrub. In and around the Big Scrub were small patches of grassland and grassy open-forest, known locally as 'grasses'. These were often given individual names, which indicated their importance in the early timber-based economy of this generally grassless district for camping and depasturing working stock. Historical records enable a reconstruction of the distribution of 56 named 'grasses', and also allow some inferences to be made about their botany and ecology. The 'grasses' appear to be natural features of the landscape, mainly relict areas following invasion of the late Pleistocene open-forest vegetation by rainforest, following sea level rise, during the Holocene. A toponymic study of the use of the term 'grass' in the Richmond River district is also included.