Sunday, November 27, 2011

Late Fall Indian Grass

The weather forecasts kept predicting Thanksgiving Day to be mostly sunny. That forecast finally changed around mid afternoon when the clouds still had not parted. I was looking out over the Indian Grass field, thinking about how the frequent rains had leached so much color from the golden stalks, when sunlight suddenly engulfed the field. It really improved the mood of the day.

Wind and rain have stripped most of the Indian Grass seeds from the seed heads. Rainfall for November is already well above normal and we have yet another storm moving our way. Each storm has been accompanied by buffeting winds and most have been followed by a day of strong straight line winds. Anything not well anchored has been blown around.

Several plants have held onto florets that never managed to produce seed. These are mostly found in the patches of Indian Grass that flowered late in the season. Even in those areas though, the majority of plants managed to produce viable seed.

The seeds are now found on the ground or caught in the leaves at the base of the plants. This is where the birds will spend the winter foraging for Indian Grass seeds. On quiet winter days, you can sit in the field and hear the birds moving noisily through the grass.

As I thought about the birds, a flock of blackbirds went past overhead. The seed foragers are primarily sparrows, but the blackbirds will also make use of the field of tall grass. Sometime during the winter, blackbird flocks will move through the cedars feeding on the berries. They find the Indian Grass fields to be an ideal roosting site and will sometimes settle in by the thousands. It’s an amazing sight, but all I can think about is the thousands of cedar seeds that will be left behind in my prairie fields. Each seed represents a potential cedar tree that I will be eliminating in the future.

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