In my zeal to record all the things blooming around the Hermits’ Rest, I’ve been wanting to record all the lovely grasses that are producing their seed heads this time of year. They’re actually just glorious to look at right at sunset, when the silver bluestem practically glows as it waves in the wind. Heck, even Johnson grass (the bane of Texans’ existence) looks pretty that time of day.
I enjoy the grasses, especially since one of our field trips was to the herbarium, where we learned to use the keys to identify grasses by their seeds. Unfortunately, that is not a skill I have. Nor do I have a microscope, or even a really good camera. This means, sadly, that I sort of stink at grass identification.
Still, I throw my photos up on iNaturalist in hopes that someone will know what I am looking at. Sometimes it works, as in that rescue brome up there, but often it doesn’t.
Thank goodness for the helpful naturalists on the site, though. One of the Texas Parks and Wildlife urban wildlife biologists, Sam Kieschnick, has often consirmed my observations. His profile on iNaturalist proclaims his love of the project. The number of contributions he makes confirms his passion. I admire how he helps educate so many peopleand helps them contribute to scientific research along the way.
Sam reminded me that it’s really hard to identify grass without an extreme closeup of the inflorescence. I knew that. Some of the grass I have been looking at has some pretty teeny flowers, which are not easy to capture on an iPhone in the wind. So, I resolve to pick some and get better photos.
He also recommended two grass ID books, which I had been meaning to get, anyway. If you also want to do a better job with grass identification, see the end of this post!
I kept finding more interesting plants and insects to photograph yesterday, so I’ll share a couple. One is the zizotes milkweed (Asclepias oenotheroides)we have in the pasture near the road. Lee showed me more of them, so I am happy for future monarchs. I need to find some of the other type we have here. Guess I’ll go to the other pasture next weekend.
The other photo is this flower I’ve been seeing for years and thinking it looked like a painful tomato. I found out it’s buffalo bur (Solanum rostratum), and it is indeed in the nightshade family. I’m getting pretty good at identifying those, anyway.
My plan for next week is to work on trees until I have my grass references!
Here are the two books Sam recommended, and the other one I had on my list from my herbarium field trip.
2 thoughts on “Grass Is a Pain in the Rear”
One of my most eye-opening experiences at the Girl Scout camp where I’ve been working was about grasses. I was challenged to have a group of girls make jewelry from nature. I started exploring the area around my building to get ideas. It was then that I noted at least five different types of grasses there. In the weeks before, you would have thought they were all the same plant, but then the seed heads grew out, and , Wow! It was cool to show that to the girls. We had fun looking for the different types. Were the seeds round or oval and pointy, were the heads upright or drooping, that kind of stuff. Then I was asked to do a plant identification talk. Ha! I’d been doing a simple bird id program, but I said that the number of plant species compared to bird species was inordinately large, so a program like that was out of my depths. The number of grasses alone is astounding. And for some reason this year I have a ton of buffalo burr popping up. I had not ever seen it in my yard before, and I think it came from a package of “wildflower” mix I picked up at a street fair. Yuk, no fun, worse than the “horse nettle”, another nightshade.
Burrs are not my friend either, Anna! And even the grass books aren’t going to help me much. They are HUGE and complicated. I need to keep my magnifying glass handy to look at the seed heads.
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