Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

The time of year for the best of bushy bluestem

with 18 comments

Bushy Bluestem Turned Fluffy by Pond 1387

One of my favorite grasses is Andropogon glomeratus, known as bushy or brushy bluestem because of the fluffy seed heads it develops in the fall and winter. I’d seen some here and there in November and December of 2015 but didn’t finally photograph any until December 29th when I was walking by one of the ponds next to the Costco in Cedar Park. This grass normally grows in damp or even wet soil, so the edges of ponds and creeks are common places to find it. The little group of seed heads shown here struck me as having turned a redder brown than usual, and that was part of the attraction—as if we need an extra reason to be drawn to bushy bluestem.

If you’d like a much closer look at one of these seed heads, you can check out a post from 2012.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 14, 2016 at 5:25 AM

18 Responses

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  1. Fascinating plant. The seed heads create such a really attractive display.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 14, 2016 at 5:57 AM

  2. This is the first grass I learned to identify, and it seems widely distributed. I’ve seen it along the Rio Frio, in ditches in every coastal county, and in every refuge or nature center in the area — most of which have marshy areas and bayous running through them.

    What I hadn’t noticed was the scientific name. I see it’s in the same genus (Andropogon) as big and little bluestem, which turn those marvelous shades of rust, copper, and purple in autumn. If conditions are right, it makes sense that bushy bluestem would take on the same colors.

    It amused me to think that you, our intrepid photographer, could be placed in the category Andropogon, too: at least metaphorically. It appears the genus name comes from the Greek aner or andros meaning man, and pogon, meaning beard — a reference to hairs on the spikelets of some species in the genus.

    This is a plant I’ve happily glommed onto.


    January 14, 2016 at 7:22 AM

    • This is a likely choice for a first recognized native grass because it’s so distinctive. It was probably my first one too, even if I don’t remember any more. As you point out, it’s also very common in our areas and adjacent ones. Another good feature is that the bushy seed heads last a long time, often into the following spring.

      I remember being surprised some years ago to find out what Andropogon means. I could recognize the first part from words like android, androgen, polyandry, as well as the name Andrew, but the second part was new to me—even if it happens to fit me lo these (almost) five decades.

      As for glom, that seems to have entered English from Scottish, while glomer- (as in conglomerate) is from Latin. Andropogon glomeratus is glamoratus as far as I’m concerned.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2016 at 8:52 AM

  3. Oh how fun~ a shaggy cousin to Andropogon scoparius that I see here growing in dry places. This looks like it has a little Lespedeza to it, although of course I know it does not.


    January 14, 2016 at 8:19 AM

    • Ah, what’s in a name. When I looked up Andropogon scoparius I found it now more often seems to be classidied as Schizachyrium scoparium, the familiar little bluestem. I’ve noticed that little bluestem produces small bits of fluff in the fall, but bushy bluestem remains the king in that department. As you pointed out, botanically speaking there’s not a piece o’ Lespedeza in it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 14, 2016 at 9:01 AM

  4. chuckle chuckle… just read what Linda wrote. Would that make you Andropogon Schwartzmanii?


    January 14, 2016 at 8:20 AM

  5. I think my favorite time for grasses, especially those as showy as yours, is winter. We have a Miscanthus sp. in the front yard that is just wonderful at this time. It loses some of its appeal when a huge storm drops a pile of heavy snow upon it, but until then it is the focal point of the yard.

    Steve Gingold

    January 15, 2016 at 3:57 AM

  6. […] And now you can tell that the flight of fancy has landed when I mundanely point out a few seed heads of bushy bluestem beyond the goldenrod in the lower right corner of the […]

  7. I have always wanted to capture wind long grass (bushes), and I have clicked too a couple of times. But mostly wind ruins the little windows of opportunities I get while travelling.

    Loved your photo. And nicely framed with the curve in the background.


    January 15, 2016 at 5:12 AM

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