Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for the ‘grass’ Category

Turning red

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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.

In the “Did you know?” department: teratology is the scientific study of abnormal botanical and anatomical formations. Today’s picture is for you, teratologists of the world.

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 15, 2011 at 5:42 AM

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

A tall grass

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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

Bluebells

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Click for increased clarity and considerably greater size.

It was a colony of sunflowers that waylayed me yesterday morning on the south side of Wells Branch Parkway just east of Dessau Rd. on the Blackland Prairie, but the large field south of the sunflowers proved to hold much more. Almost missing it, I drove south on Dessau Rd., when suddenly I caught a telltale glimpse, a patch of violet, across the road to my left; the tale the color swatch told was bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum. Three times in ten days now I’ve happily found some in that far northeastern part of Austin, and each time in a sump that, cracked though the ground was, must have retained enough moisture for the bluebells to thrive in the continuing drought. Shown here is the main stand of yesterday’s colony, the densest of the three. The predominantly vertical brown strokes are the dried out remains of last year’s bushy bluestem, Andropogon glomeratus, a native grass that turns wonderfully fluffy when it goes to seed in the fall.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

(Look here for more information about bluebells, which, even more than bluebonnets, aren’t blue.)

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 14, 2011 at 6:40 AM

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