Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A tall grass

with 16 comments

Eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides; click for a more detailed view.

I found the sunflower remains pictured in a post earlier this week near the shore of a pond a couple of miles from where I live in Austin. Another plant there that attracted me was eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides, a native species that looks nothing like the low, alien grasses that Americans plant in their lawns. Eastern gamagrass is clumpy and large, and it produces flower stalks that can rise as much as 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. If the stalk shown here reminds you in some ways of corn (maize), that’s because corn is a close relative. And if you see in this picture a strange swan with a scaly green neck swimming leftward against a blue background that might be water (but is actually sky), then you have a good imagination.

(For more information about Tripsacum dactyloides, including a clickable map showing where this species grows, you can visit the USDA website.)

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 13, 2011 at 5:55 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Amazing as always:)


    August 13, 2011 at 7:41 AM

  2. We have a grass very similar in stature here in Alabama. My geese love it so much that they will chew the stalks down just to get at the seed heads!

    I like your swan allegory.


    August 13, 2011 at 9:04 AM

    • I notice from the USDA map that eastern gamagrass grows in many parts of Alabama. Do you think your grass could be the same species, or do you already know that it’s different?

      The swan thanks you for seeing through its scaly green disguise.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2011 at 9:20 AM

      • Not certain from your photograph. Ours here has more than one tassel on the top but IS very ‘corn-like’ in its stature and growth habit. ~ L


        August 13, 2011 at 9:32 AM

      • Usually there is more than one long “finger” at the top of the stalk, so I suspect that we’re talking about the same plant.

        Steve Schwartzman

        August 13, 2011 at 10:02 AM

  3. I see the tail of an animal — an imaginary animal with scales; perhaps the animal can swim and fly!

    Thanks for spurring the moment of imagination.


    August 13, 2011 at 9:14 AM

  4. My first reaction was “dragonscale” – is that a word? – and then read the other comments! I once asked someone why the “eastern” notation. Apparently because the other species is T. laxum, sometimes called Mexican gamagrass. So perhaps we should call it northern gama??


    August 13, 2011 at 8:03 PM

    • Dragonscale sounds good to me, Scott; you can take credit for the coinage.

      I didn’t know about Tripsacum laxum; I assumed eastern gamagrass took its name from the fact that the species grows in most of the eastern United States.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 13, 2011 at 10:40 PM

  5. […] picture above shows that the type of green stalk seen in yesterday’s photo will blossom into two sets of flowers that look quite different, the male above and the female […]

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