Hidden Marvels in the Fields of Grass

May 21st, 9 am.

It is a foggy a.m. but I feel the sun’s warmth coming through the clouds. As I walk past Outlet Creek, the bird songs are everywhere as spring is reaching a crescendo. The vast fields of grass are waving emerald green to the east and north of me. It feels like looking at an ocean of grass. I am riveted by its beauty.

Hidden in the wetter areas are specialized plants that need the inundation of the winter rains to go through their life cycles. One of these is the threatened Baker’s Meadowfoam, Limnanthes bakeri,  this is one of the protected plants in our wetlands. The mitigation lands have the largest healthy population of this diminutive, and fragile plant. It is at the end of its flowering period, and I am happy to be able to photograph a few of its flowers.

I walk past a blooming bush called Ninebark, Physocarpus capitatus. This is a lovely native riparian shrub that is very attractive to butterflies of all types, but today it is visited by a few Western Tiger Swallowtails, Papilus rutulus. They seem to love the nectar from the white florets of this shrub. I know they use the Cottonwoods and Alders to lay their eggs on so their larvae eat these until maturity. As I look down the riparian corridor of Outlet creek I can see plenty of these trees, especially the tall Cottonwoods, Populus trichocarpa. It is mesmerizing watching these butterflies flitting all around the creamy white flowers.

 Turning into the grasslands around me, I notice there are some unusual species of grasses. One of them is a distinctive reddish-purple color and its form reminds me of a weaving. This is the elegant native, California Meadow Barley, Hordeum brachyantherum subs. brachyantherum. it is a perennial grass that has been abundantly planted in these mitigation lands to try and out-compete some of the non-native grasses. It is good to see it doing so well in this area.

In a wetter are, I see another favorite grass of mine, American slough grass, Beckmannia syzigachne. Its overlapping spikelets are structurally distinct and artistically arranged, plus its gray-green color makes it stand out amongst the other grasses. This grass is favored by the cattle that will be back in these fields in the days to come.

As I look out across to the east side of this valley, I see a sea of waving grasses, a paradise for so many grazing animals and other grassland creatures.

1 Comment

  • Olga O'Neill says:

    It is so helpful to see and learn about each of the distinct grasses. I love seeing the sea of grasses, but usually view them as a whole.

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