Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Eastern gamagrass with its own flowers and others

with 21 comments

Eastern Gamagrass Male Flowers by Asters 1762

Grasses are flowering plants—honest, even if their flowers are tiny and don’t look like roses or daffodils or daisies. Here you see a leaning stalk of eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides (which I believe is Austin’s tallest native grass), with a goodly number of its pendulous male flowers. Beyond those foreground flowers are similarly numerous flower heads of asters in the genus Symphyotrichum.

The date was October 28th, and the location Springfield Park in southeast Austin.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 25, 2014 at 5:13 AM

21 Responses

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  1. Beautiful grass, isn’t it? Reminds me a little of Side-oats Grama, which I come across once in awhile here.


    November 25, 2014 at 9:18 AM

    • I can see why all those flowers on one side of the eastern gamagrass stalk would remind you of side-oats grama, which I much more often see here and which is the official state grass of Texas (why does a state need an official grass?). Eastern gamagrass stalks are much taller than the side-oats, often even taller than a person. It’s definitely a grass to look up to. Perhaps you’ll paint one someday (assuming you haven’t already).

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2014 at 9:37 AM

      • Not a bad idea. I had no idea it was that tall. I understood grasses west of the Mississippi to be short. Texas is full of surprises, isn’t it?


        November 25, 2014 at 10:06 AM

        • Definitely full of surprises, and so I keep learning things. Another tall grass that grows west and east of the Mississippi is the aptly named big bluestem, which can reach 8 ft.

          Steve Schwartzman

          November 25, 2014 at 12:24 PM

  2. Nice to see a grass flower getting its due, Steve. Some are quite tall. We grow an ornamental non-native Miscanthus that has large light beige flower heads which are retained all winter. Lovely sound on a quiet evening with a frigid breeze.

    Steve Gingold

    November 25, 2014 at 3:24 PM

    • Can I have the lovely sound and the quiet evening but skip the frigid breeze?

      I do try to give grasses their due, and some, like eastern gamagrass, are quite photogenic, so it’s easy. The small ones, as you know, can be difficult to photograph, but that’s what a macro lens is for.

      Steve Schwartzman

      November 25, 2014 at 3:39 PM

      • Yes, of course. The sound is just as wonderful on a warm summer evening. I think it may be more welcome in the winter, though. Kind of a reminder of summer plants and hope for the distant return of spring.

        Steve Gingold

        November 25, 2014 at 3:41 PM

  3. Very interesting; I learned so much from your post and the comments.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    November 27, 2014 at 12:56 AM

    • It is an interesting plant, no question. I’m afraid it doesn’t grow any closer to Seattle than western Kansas, but that’s an incentive for you to visit the center of the country.

      By the way, the female flowers of eastern gamagrass look very different from the male flowers. You can see a picture I took of some female flowers at:


      Steve Schwartzman

      November 27, 2014 at 3:59 AM

  4. This is fabulous. I’m forever admiring grasses and saying, “I wonder what that is?” A few are familiar, but not nearly enough. And I’ve never seen flowers like these. To tell the truth, I’m surprised by the color. It seems more vibrant than I would have imagined. But then, I’ve never thought much about grass having flowers. I guess I just thought those seeds magically appeared.


    December 1, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    • Eastern gamagrass has the advantage of being tall, so its flowers are more noticeable than those of most other grass species. I’m not familiar with many grasses, and even with the help of guidebooks they can be hard to identify, but I’m still trying to learn new ones.

      By the way, the female flowers of eastern gamagrass are quite different from the male flowers. You can see a few female ones at the bottom of the first photograph in a very early post:


      Steve Schwartzman

      December 1, 2014 at 10:33 PM

  5. Can’t say I’ve ever seen these before but they certainly don’t look like flowers! Heck if you don’t look close enough I’d bet plenty of people think they’re some kind of invertebrate. But isn’t that what’s awesome about nature? It doesn’t REALLY adhere to the rules we think we know, it has its own set. 😉


    January 3, 2015 at 7:53 PM

    • Ah yes, the flowers we think we know, the rules we think we know. Socrates apparently said “All I know is that I know nothing,” and I often feel that way.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 3, 2015 at 8:53 PM

      • Too true. I was reading something lately in which the author touches on this point, that the truth in science is that the more we know the more we actually don’t know! And that’s really so true, I mean don’t you then just have more questions?

        🙂 And at the end of the day we really know nothing.


        January 4, 2015 at 5:02 PM

        • A few months ago I read a book called The Half-Life of Facts, which points out some of the many scientific “facts” from various periods, some of them recent, that are no longer believed true:


          Steve Schwartzman

          January 4, 2015 at 7:27 PM

          • That sounds interesting, I may have to add this to my “Want-to-read” list. Thanks for sharing!


            January 8, 2015 at 12:59 PM

            • You’re welcome. It seems there’s always more to read than we can handle.

              Steve Schwartzman

              January 8, 2015 at 1:05 PM

              • Oh don’t I know that! Between my physical and electronic book libraries I’ve got my reading cut out for me and yet…I still visit the library for research and browse the shelves… …. can’t complain.


                January 8, 2015 at 1:22 PM

                • Although I haven’t browsed library shelves much recently, I used to spend a lot of time doing that, and of course enjoying it. The University of Texas here in Austin has a huge collection: what fun!

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 8, 2015 at 1:51 PM

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