One suggestion was to rewrite it as "Several native grasses grow here." This is certainly a direct and active approach to rewriting, although it changes the meaning slightly. In situations like these, we need to put on the editor's hat and ask the writer, "Are you saying that the grasses naturally grow there? Or are you saying that someone is intentionally growing the grasses there?"
If the answer is that they naturally grow, I would suggest the rewrite above. If the answer is that they are intentionally grown--in a restoration project, for example--let's stick with the sentence as it was presented but with a change.
The principle that Amy Einsohn discusses is that the use of the indefinite article "a" receives different treatment than the definite article, "the."
On June 5, I posted this tricky sentence: "A variety of natives grasses is grown here." It stirred up a lot of conversation. The sentence deserved all of this attention because it is one of twenty-five grammar principles that Amy Einsohn, in The Copyeditor's Handbook, called the "most prevalent perplexities and controversies in subject-verb agreement"
A variety of ___________ are ...
The variety of ____________ is ...
Variety is plural when it is preceded by "a," and variety is singular when preceded by "the."
This is definitely one of those lesser known quirks of English. Although not many of us are aware of the principle behind our usage, we know when it sounds right--or not.
Meet the Editor
I'm Coreen, and I am a copy editor, writer, instructor, digital marketer, and student of PR and Communications for organizations doing positive work in the world.