Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Did he say flowers?

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In the last post I mentioned that Eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides, produces flower stalks that can rise as much as 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. Flowers? Yes, grasses are flowering plants, but most people don’t think of them that way because their flowers are small and don’t look like lilies, roses, daisies, etc. But grasses ignore our limited imagination and keep on producing what they are sure are flowers.

The 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 below. The male flowers are tiny tubes attached in pairs to the stalk by little threads. With almost any breeze at all these flowers twirl and dance about in the wind, so photographing them often requires a fast shutter speed. The female elements, of which you can see a few, resemble old-fashioned pipe cleaners, except they’re a dull red. The male flowers can vary in color from the yellow of the photo below to the yellow-orange of the photo above and even to red and brown.

Eastern Gamagrass Yellow Male Flowers 2693

(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 14, 2011 at 5:41 AM

One Response

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  1. […] Yesterday’s post mentioned that Eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides, produces male flowers that vary from yellow to orange in color. As time passes, the orange may deepen to red, which is normal. What’s not normal is the way the flower stalk shown here is strangely twisted. What to make of this I don’t know, but I find it appealing. […]


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