A Bit of Bluestem Beauty

Little bluestem ~ Kendall County, Texas

Accustomed to seeking out autumn color in trees, vines, and shrubs, it’s easy to forget that grasses, too, can contribute to the pleasures of autumn and early winter.

One of my favorites, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is named for the greenish-blue color its stems show off in summer. As the year progresses, blue transforms to various shades of rusty red, and prairies begin to glow with a special vibrancy beneath the rising or setting sun.

Whether found in ditches or pristine preserves, the grass is beautiful, holding its color throughout the winter for the pleasure of humans, and providing cover and seed for small mammals and birds.

Little bluestem against winged sumac (Rhus copallinum) ~ Diamond Grove Prairie, Missouri
Comments always are welcome.

 

That Montana-Missouri Connection

Yellow salsify (Tragopogon dubius)

The size of the seedheads bobbing about in a ditch near the entrance to Burr Oak Woods conservation area in Blue Springs, Missouri made clear I’d found something other than an ordinary dandelion. From three to five inches in diameter, their gleaming fluff begged to be identified.

Identification turned out to be easier than I could have imagined. As I began catching up on blogs after two weeks of travel and family time, I discovered a similar puffball in a post from Montana Outdoors, together with a photo showing yellow salsify in bud and in flower. Eventually, I learned that the plant, originally from Europe, sometimes is called goatsbeard, but that risks confusion with yet another goatsbeard — Aruncus dioicusthat’s part of the rose family and which also (somewhat oddly) is known as bride’s feathers.

Intrigued by the coincidence, I wondered which other spring wildflowers Montana and Missouri might share. As if on cue, Terry followed up his post of the salsify with photos of a flower called self-heal. The examples I found scattered throughout Missouri and Arkansas seemed nearly at the end of their bloom, but they remained interesting and attractive.

Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris) at Missouri’s Diamond Grove Prairie
Self-heal seen from above in the Ouachita mountains of Arkansas

Only a few days before, Terry had posted photos of a Montana native: the Nootka rose (Rosa nutkana). While that wild rose doesn’t overlap with Missouri’s native pasture rose, their appearance is similar, and the delight of their flowers surely is equal.

Beyond that, Rosa carolina also is listed as present in a few far northeastern counties of Texas, as well as in Kerr and Gillespie counties, which I occasionally visit. Next spring, I’ll make it a point to seek out this native rose closer to home.

Pasture rose (Rosa Carolina) at Missouri’s Diamond Grove Prairie

Certainly I expected to find at least a few unfamiliar wildflowers during my recent travel, but discovering these Missouri-Montana connections provided an extra dollop of delight.

Comments always are welcome.