Thursday, November 5, 2009

Elliott's Beard Grass

Elliott’s Beard Grass, Andropogon gyrans, is one of those plants that remains hidden in the landscape until it finally begins to die back and release its seed load. As it dries, the cluster of wide leaves at the top of the plant open like a fan to release the mature seed.

The fluffy seeds are impossible to miss when they begin to emerge. The escaping seed masses look like white flags atop the grass stem. This grass is in the same genus as the Big Bluestem, but it normally doesn’t exceed two or three feet in height.

The leaves are normally a bright orange at this time of year and make an interesting addition to a dried flower arrangement. The excessive rains this year have already bleached away most of the colors. I’m going to have to get some of this growing up near the house where I can keep an eye on it.

At Blue Jay Barrens I only find this grass growing on the low pH shale based soils. It’s most noticeable on the poor fertility sites. This grass is sometimes referred to as Elliott’s Poverty Grass because of its ability to prosper on sites too poor to support other grasses.

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