Sunday, June 01, 2014

Feather Grass

Weather: In one week the weather’s gone from too cold and windy to work outside to too hot; from not being able to work until 9 am, to having to go in around 8:30 am. Everything that blooms is dispirited. Last rain: 5/26/14.

What’s blooming in the area: Austrian copper, Dr Huey, pink species, yellow species and hybrid roses, yellow potentilla, silver lace vine, red hot poker, chives, peony, oriental poppy, Jupiter’s beard, pink evening primrose, blue flax, sweet pea, purple-flowered salvia, yellow yarrow.

Virginia creeper, grapes, catalpas and black locusts releafing after cold the morning of May 14.

Beyond the walls and fences: Tamarix, alfilerillo, western stickseed, bractless cryptantha, tumble mustard, tufted white evening primrose, purple mat flower, fern leaf globemallow, oxalis, pink and white bindweed, amaranth, goat’s beard, native and common dandelions, cheat, needle, feather, rice and June grasses.

In my yard: Fragrant privet, beauty bush, skunkbush, Johnson’s Blue geranium, Bath pinks, snow-in-summer, golden spur columbine, vinca, pink-flowered salvia, catmint, Dutch white clover, baptisia, chocolate flower, white yarrow.

Finally put seeds in this week. Hope the winds have finally died down and the rain penetrated enough for them to germinate.

Bedding plants: Pansies.

Animal sightings: Gecko, small birds, ladybugs, more grasshoppers than usual, harvester and small black ants. Not see any bees yet.

Weekly update: Feather grass is blooming. Most of the year, it’s indistinguishable from its sibling, needle grass. But for the few short weeks it’s in flower, it’s very distinct. While Hesperostipa comata looks like seaweed lapped by water, this resembles the frozen trail of a sparkler on the Fourth of July.

Hesperostipa neomexicana has been in my yard as long as I’ve live here, but usually as a specimen in the gravel by my garage. This year, it’s in a line along the eastern edge of the turn area.

I don’t know if it’s dispersion is the result of the earth mover that built the turn area by moving gravel from the garage area or if seed came with the new gravel delivered from an area on the other side of the Río Grande near Santa Clara.

I’m fairly sure its proliferation this year is the result of last fall’s rains that soaked the seed enough for it to germinate.

The two are members of the Eurasian Stipa tribe within the grass family. The Hesperostipa evolved early, but after the North American continental mass had broken away. They both are found only in the New World.

Needle grass grows is almost every state and province west of the Mississippi or north of the Ohio. Feather grass is concentrated in New Mexico and Arizona, with some spillage into southeastern Nevada, southern Utah and Colorado, and the Edwards Plateau down into Coahuila.

The seed tails or awns, with their arrow-like hairs, seem to prefer rocky soils. Researchers at Utah State University associate the perennial with grasslands that occur "in the narrow to broad transition band between the Rocky Mountains and the Shortgrass Steppe" between 5000' and 7000'. It’s found on the hog backs of the mountain’s front range and in the Chalk Bluffs near the Colorado-Wyoming border.

Paul Peterson and others found the bunch grass on rocky, limestone slopes in Coahuila at 7100'.

In New Mexico, Jeremy McClain and Tessia Robbins found it in the Sandía foothills in gravelly to sandy loam at about 5700'. West of the river, in the Petroglyph National Monument, it’s a dominant grass on the glacial washes, late Pleistocene alluvium, that occur below the mesa in the northern section.

It’s not exactly rare, but it is a victim of overgrazing. "The largest protected stands are likely to be in" the monument boundaries. My yard is one of the smallest protected areas.

Jacobs, Surrey, Randall Bayer, Joy Everett, Mirta Arriaga, Mary Barkworth, Alexandru Sabin-Badereau, Amelia Torres, Francisco Va´ Zquez, and Neil Bagnall. "Systematics of the Tribe Stipeae (Gramineae) Using Molecular Data," Aliso 23:349-361:2007.

Muldavin, E., Y. Chauvin, L. Arnold, T. Neville, P. Arbetan and P. Neville. Vegetation Classification and Map: Petroglyph National Monument (2012).

Smithsonian Institution. Department of Botany has the specimens collected in New Mexico by J. McClain and T. Robbins, and in Coahuila by Paul M. Peterson, J. M. Saarela, Konstantyn Romaschenko and J. Valdés-Reyna at Mpio, Saltillo.

Utah State University. Southwest Regional Gap Analysis Project. On-line description of "S086 Western Great Plains Foothill and Piedmont Grassland"

1-5. Feather grass along the edge of my drive, 29 May 2014.

6. Needle grass in my back yard, 23 May 2012.

No comments: