Friday, September 21, 2012

Indian Grass 2012

This is the time of year to enjoy the tall grass prairie.  The Indian Grass at Blue Jay Barrens has reached its peak for the year and will get no taller.  It’s a joy to go out and get lost among the towering grass stalks.

The grass is looking particularly healthy this year.  Winds associated with passing weather fronts move the grass in waves across the field.

Despite its apparent vigor, the grass has behaved oddly this year.  Stalks from last year’s stand are still present.  Early summer rains normally cause the base of the dead stalks to decompose.  The stalks then topple.  By summer’s end, the stalks are hidden from sight.  The intense early summer drought kept things so dry that the old stalks never fell.  In the shot above, the area in the foreground was mowed during the winter, so all of the stalks were cut and laid down.  The area behind was left untouched and the light brown of old stalks is clear to see.

The second thing of note this year is the height of the grass.  Bluebird nest boxes should now be hidden by the grass.  The top of the nest box is right at five feet above the ground.  Most of the grass falls well short of that height.  The tall grass experience is just not the same when the grass just barely makes it up to your shoulder.  Not much chance of getting lost in grass like that.

A rain storm during grass bloom provided conditions that were just perfect for pollination and seed set.  Despite its short height, the grass produced normal sized heads.  I’d say that the grass had a successful season.

Unlike last year’s staggered ripening schedule, the Indian Grass this year is all developing at the same rate.  Everywhere I checked I found developing seed at the milk stage, meaning that the center of the seed contains a white liquid.  It won’t be long before the seeds harden and begin to turn brown.  It appears that sparrows spending the winter in the fields will have plenty of grass seed on which to feed.

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