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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lukewarm to Warm Season Grasses?

There undoubtedly tends to be a strong passion for a hawk in flight, or a bright and blooming wildflower - but what about those often colorless season grasses that cover most of the fields and meadows in the area? I'll admit I was not entirely interested in learning the many different varieties, but after two hikes focused on cool and warm season grasses, I've come to appreciate the diversity. I now find myself carefully focusing on identifying the grasses on my commute to work, rather than the road...

The Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberi), Yellow Foxtail (Setaria glauca) and Green Foxtail (Setaria viridis) may be one of the easiest to identify or spot due to its characteristic name. In image below, the Yellow Foxtail is the orange/brown/yellow colored one, and the Giant Foxtail is the green colored grass.

Green Foxtail
Giant Foxtail and Yellow Foxtail

Purpletop (Tridens flavus) is a native plant preferred by many animals and insects. It is the tallest plant pictured below.
In comparison to Purpletop, there is a non-native grass called, Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), which has similar purpleish color to the seedlings. Botanist, Janet Ebert, leading the season grass hike, pointed out one of the in-plain-sight differences is that purpletop's seedlings will droop down, while johnsongrass's seedheads are raised. See picture:

Johnson grass
Our group was also a bit distracted by the beauty of the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Read TLC's recent blog about these caterpillars

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

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