Grass after rain

Posted: September 25th, 2009 under photography, Plantlife, Water.
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Altogether, we’ve had 10 inches of rain since the big rain started.  Though it’s too late for some things, others have recovered well.


The yellow flowers are two-leaf senna, and the pink is the rose-oxalis that usually blooms in the early spring.

These were blooming up near the dry woods,  and near them was one of our prettiest grasses, when it’s in bloom:


The tiny seeds are held a little apart, on plume-like seedheads, so the overall effect is a delicate airy “foam”.   I think this is one of the Muhly grasses but I don’t know which.

Big bluestem didn’t grow much this year–the leaves were much shorter than usual–but this clump put out a lot of seeds:


The seedstalks of big bluestem show up dark against many other grasses, a beautiful rich chocolate when ripe.   This grew from a root transplant of a rescued specimen (where construction was going to destroy it.)    This clump has spread since planting, but it’s a slow process.

Little bluestem, in contrast, grows in compact, stiff-looking upright clumps:


It’s only about knee-high this year, but after the rains I expect the seedheads will shoot up another foot.  Later, it turns a lovely russet  and the seeds make fluffy white “snow” that’s quite striking.    This part of the west grass was almost completely barren when we bought the plance; these clumps grew from seed harvested in the two surviving pocket prairies.    In the background is the edge of the creek woods.

Indiangrass is another of the tallgrass dominants, but in the second summer of drought it too grew short–but its golden spears of flowers shot up after that first rain.   We harvested seed from the pocket prairies for this, too.


Looking north along the edge of the creek woods to the north property line, the greenest area is the mowed work lane.


To the right, native grasses (including clumps of little bluestem) are invading old barren ground; in the distance, the small brown lumps to the right are areas of little bluestem that appeared spontaneously.


  • Comment by Elizabeth Barrette — September 25, 2009 @ 6:39 pm


    This is beautiful! I love the photos of all the different grasses. Thank you so much for sharing these.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 25, 2009 @ 11:18 pm


    Glad you like them. I love grasses, but they are stinkers to ID and hard to photograph in the detail I’d like to show–Indiangrass it a particularly easy one when it’s in flower (those spear-points) but so many of the short and mid-grasses are confusing. Especially when they’re not blooming. And if there’s any kind of wind (which we usually have) they blow–and thus blur.

  • Comment by AnnMCN — September 26, 2009 @ 6:00 am


    These are so good to see. Water is so contradictory — it brings life, or can destroy. Amazing stuff.

  • Comment by Harriet Culver — September 26, 2009 @ 8:06 am


    Beautiful grasses! How many years is it now, that this land has been under your guardianship?

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 26, 2009 @ 11:04 am


    February 2001. We had signed the contract of intent in August 2000, but though we had been given permission to wander about on it, and start grubbing out the invasive juniper in the grassland (there were hundreds–Richard worked on them every weekend) we could not get the cattle off until then, and all that winter the too-many cattle ate the last (we thought) of the grass down to the roots. And the brown water ran off–it was a wet winter–though we piled what branches we could find in the near meadow.

  • Comment by ajlr — September 26, 2009 @ 1:43 pm


    I love the view in the 5th photo down – looks as though the land is covered in pale golden fur.

    It must be wonderful to see everything coming back to life after the rain. Here’s hoping you get the extra inches needed for the creek to flow.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 26, 2009 @ 2:04 pm


    It is wonderful, you’re right. And I too hope for enough more rain to restore the water table and let the creek flow.

  • Comment by gunhilda — September 26, 2009 @ 10:08 pm


    What did you do with the junipers you cut out? We cut down about thirty from the 3.5 acres we just bought. We’re delimbing and burning them now, but I was wondering if you had a better suggestion for disposal.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 27, 2009 @ 5:35 am


    Don’t burn them, if you can avoid it, though if you need wood for a stove, that’s OK. Burning a lot of fresh cut juniper can produce so much heat it kills some of the seeds in the ground. And it contributes to air pollution, including release of carbon dioxide and soot.

    We used them in several ways: in gullies, as a starter for managing erosion, stacked as brushpiles for shelter for birds (leave limbs on and stack with the butt ends up), as some of the braces in the rainbarns (pieces of limb or trunk 3-4 inches in diameter made good knee braces.) In some areas we cleared, we left them lying on their sides, again as shelter for wildlife. If you have a chipper (we don’t) the chipped-up small limbs and foliage can make mulch for bare areas.

    So if you have any erosion problems, consider piling them whole or just the limbs, into the gully. In a hard rain they may be moved downstream, but in time with a series of lesser rains they will trap soil and create a series of terraces–the captured soil will then support vegetation. On 3.5 acres, you can probably use a couple of brushpiles. I have to get dressed for church, but I’ll try to find the pictures of ours this afternoon.

  • Comment by gunhilda — September 28, 2009 @ 5:09 pm


    Thanks for the good info.

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