Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bluestem Grasses (Andropogon sp.)

November 17th, 2014. It’s that time of year… The bluestem grasses are blooming. These are the bluestems I’ve been tracking for several years.

Broomsedge Bluestem (Andropogon virginicus) is, by far, the most widespread bluestem In our area.

From a distance, the plants often just look like ‘bushy’ brown stalks; the flowers may not be obvious.

The flowers are dominated by the bracts. This is an unusually impressive example of this species.

Splitbeard Bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) is not as common as the Broomsedge Bluestem in our area. I had noticed this species in previous years but have only really appreciated it this year. 

From a distance, the plants are not ‘bushy’ and the flowers are very much more obvious than they are on the Broomsedge Bluestem. This plant is an excellent example of this species; most of the flowers are fully opened and clearly exhibiting the ‘splitbeard’ shape for which the species is names. 

A close view of the flower. 

Bushy Bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus). I haven’t seen this species in eastern Walton County, Georgia,  but I’ve seen a few plants in Barrow County. I’ve seen this species more frequently in Wilkes, Greene, and Jones counties. The plants are easily recognized by their bushy tops.

This is a field of plants in Wilkes County, Georgia

Some isolated plants in the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge in Jones County, Georgia.

A close-up of the flowers.

Elliott’s Bluestem (Andropogon gyrans) is another species I haven’t seen in Walton County, Georgia. I first saw this species in the Piedmont NWR and I've seen it occasionally in Greene County. 

From a distance, the plants are recognizable by their ‘fan-shaped’ tips.  These plants are surrounded by Broomsedge Bluestem.
Close-up of the plant. The flower bracts and leaf sheaths form the fan-shaped appearance and the flowers peak out from them.

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