A Fine Stand of Grama

Native short-grass at the end of a good year.

Native short-grass at the end of a good year.

Between two doctors’ offices, at the edge of an arroyo that leads into the Canadian Breaks, there sits a vacant field. The field does not get mowed. It does not need to be.

Looking north toward the arroyo.

Looking north toward the arroyo.

Lush short-grass on a gentle slope.

Lush short-grass on a gentle slope.

This seems to be mostly blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis). It is related to sideoats grama, buffalo grass, hairy grama and several other short-grass grasses. It grows during late spring and early summer, and is good winter fodder for cattle as long as it does not get wet and then freeze. This is a very dense stand that has only a few weeds, and those seem to be struggling. Like most shortgrass steppe natives, blue grama is about knee high on me, perhaps a touch shorter. Tall grass reaches two meters (over six feet tall). The closest tallgrass patches are in the bottom of the Canadian Breaks, if any remain. Tall grasses need more water. Gramas can survive on lean rations and under relatively heavy grazing pressure, and are considered valuable forage grasses.

Grass grass everywhere.

Grass grass everywhere.

The doctor in the neighboring lot allowed me to go into the field and take pictures. There are quail and deer in this area, and rumors of wild turkey and pheasant. Late last winter a “sold” sign appeared in the lot and I had fears it would be ripped up and built upon, but the sale seems to have fallen through, or someone is taking their time about starting construction. I’d just as soon see the lot stay native grass, because there are few stands this good around. I looked and listened for snakes, but didn’t see any, and I suspect the roadrunners and hawks and coyotes and bull snakes take care of the rattlers.

Up close and feathery.

Up close and feathery.

Notice teh fine stems and leaves, and the feathery side-ways seeds.

Notice the fine stems and leaves, and the feathery side-ways seeds.

If I win the lottery, I’m going to buy this lot and keep it as open space. I also want to grow big bluestem in pots in my front yard and watch people boggle when it gets as tall as the porch roof. Both are equally likely to transpire.

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3 thoughts on “A Fine Stand of Grama

    • Longer grasses are much better. Gramas are pasture fodder. For hay, up here, people planted other grasses, or looked for stands of Western Wheat Grass. Charlie Goodnight and others sought out playas with stands of wheatgrass for hay. In the eastern and southern plains, you’ll find more wheatgrass in the so-called midgrass prairies. The Texas A&M extension service has a lot of information about the different native grasses for haying vs. grazing.

  1. Sad drive back yesterday, seeing all the mesquite and salt grass on the JA… That seems to be moving north at a rapid lip. Not good for Gramma or any other native grasses, due to the amount of water they suck up.

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