Saturday, October 17, 2009

Common Dropseed

If you like short growing grasses, this Common Dropseed, Sporobolus vaginiflorus, could become your favorite. A jumbo sized plant would reach 12 inches, including the seed stalk and the Blue Jay Barrens specimens rarely exceed six inches.

Common Dropseed is a summer annual that must produce a crop of seed if there are going to be plants the next year. Most of the seed is produced in the enlarged areas along the stem. These swollen areas are leaf sheaths enclosing the flowers. As the dead plant dries, the sheaths will unfurl to release the mature seed.

Annual plants such as the Common Dropseed are colonizers of bare or disturbed areas. This grass survives dry, low fertility conditions and is regularly encountered in the barrens. Its presence helps shield the soil against erosion and increases the organic matter in the soil. This stability and increased fertility creates a suitable environment for other plants to grow and become established.

Over time, the size of the bare areas decreases and perennial plants begin to dominate. Eventually the Common Dropseed can no longer compete and disappears from the site. Fortunately, Blue Jay Barrens is in no danger of running out of places for this grass to grow and it will remain an integral part of the barrens ecosystem.

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