Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tall Dropseed

Three weeks ago I was visiting the tiny grass called Common Dropseed. Today I’m looking at its big brother the Long-leaved or Tall Dropseed, Sporobolus asper. Many people look at a field of grass and fail to see the different species that make up the stand. Each species differs in its palatability to different animal species, in its growth habits and in its method of producing seed.

Tall Dropseed grows about four feet tall and sometimes forms patches dense enough to exclude other species. The most noticeable characteristic of this grass is the apparent thickened stem at the top of the plant created by rolled leaves. Once you get this visual image in mind, you can see the Tall Dropseed start to visually pop out of the grass stand.

The flowers and seeds are found inside this rolled leaf sheath. The cycle of wetting and drying causes the leaf to gradually open to release the seeds. The speed of this process varies among plants and sometimes takes several months before the seeds are released. It takes some work to open the rolled leaves so birds usually leave these seeds alone when other food is available. It’s not uncommon in late winter to find where a bird has worked to open a rolled leaf to get at the seeds inside.

The lower leaves and the leaves on non-flowering plants form thin wispy curls. These leaves are what give away the Tall Dropseed’s presence in early summer. The thin leaves of the young plant form what appears to be an almost insubstantial green mist among the other tall grasses.

1 comment:

  1. ...very interesting. I always learn something when I visit your blog. Enjoyed your kingfisher post below. I like the color in the female. I usually only get to see the male on the strip of Little Miami River I visit regularly.