Two Winter Grasses

by Carl Strang

This week’s winter botany focus is on two more grasses. This time the species look quite different, so as to emphasize the diversity of winter plant appearance.

Little bluestem has reddish stems that form well defined tufts, standing out from their surroundings.

Up close, the fruiting structures are complex and beautiful.

The seed strands have a delicate, feathery structure.

Little bluestem is a native grass of dry to mesic prairies. The next species, orchard grass, is an Old World import that prefers somewhat shaded areas.

Its denser clusters of seed-bearing structures have a relatively heavy, solid look.

The yellow-brown color of orchard grass in winter is more typical of grasses generally. When blooming, orchard grass likewise shows a clumped floral structure.

Orchard grass in the summer is tinged blue-green.

Orchard grass has some visual interest, but if I had sunny space to fill in a landscape plan, little bluestem would be my choice.

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