Our Glorious Grasses ~ Bushy Bluestem

A favorite photo of early blooming bushy bluestem at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

One of our most dramatic fall grasses, bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) thrives across the southern half of Texas. Unlike other species in the bluestem genus, A. glomeratus prefers sunny, moist locations; it often decorates ditches or fills low, damp fields with its unmistakable foliage.

During the growing season, the grass develops in pretty green bunches, sometimes tinged with tones of blue or copper. In autumn, its feathery plumes emerge — sometimes quickly and dramatically — showing why the grass also is known as ‘beardgrass.’ Eventually, it takes on an attractive rusty color that endures throughout the winter.

Like other bluestems, the grass is beneficial to a wide variety of wildlife, giving food, shelter, and nesting material to small mammals, insects, and birds.

A grasshopper gloms on to a sheaf of A. glomeraus stems at Bastrop State Park in October

Despite its bunched-up appearance and growth habits that sometimes make details hard to discern, its feathery seeds are extraordinarily pretty, especially when seen against a blue sky and still-green foliage.

A glimpse of autumn gold at the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge


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Island in the Stream


Bigtooth Maples (Acer grandidentatum) and the Sabinal River serve as primary attractions at Lost Maples State Natural Area near Vanderpool, Texas. 

The ‘lost’ maples, native trees that survived in a few spots after the end of the last great ice age, provide some of the most glorious autumn color in Texas. In the protected canyons of Bandera county, they thrive in the company of Chinquapin Oak, Black Walnut, Linden, Cedar Elm, and Black Cherry. Understory plants such as Mexican Buckeye, Carolina Buckthorn, Witch Hazel, and Mountain Laurel add beauty to seasons other than fall.

The Sabinal River isn’t the only water coursing through the area. Can Creek, which flows alongside the Maple and East trails, is laced with grasses like those shown above. While not as dramatic as the trees, they have their own subtle beauty.

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Going Solo


During a visit to the Big Thicket’s Solo Tract, I found a single stem of coastal plain yellow-eyed grass (Xyris ambigua) glowing with unexpected beauty.



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Marsh, Mellow


On a hot and sultry midsummer’s mid-afternoon, marsh life slows. No bird feeds or calls; alligators abandon their banks, sinking into the silty waters. Only an occasional dragonfly passes by while other creatures remain hidden, waiting within the river of grass for the lowering of the sun.


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