Monday, June 28, 2010

The Dichanthelium Series: Dichanthelium praecocius


There, beneath the big grasses of the prairie, nestled next to triple-canoed violet fruits, aborted Scleria achenes and the tumbled tops of Agrostis hyemalis is a grass that no one sees. It is small. It is hairy and dirty.

The stems emerge tangential, node, soon bend geniculate but not quite erect. Hairs are ubiquitous but sparse enough to collect dirt; char in good years.

Vernal panicles elongate and expand moments before the axillary inflorescences; a novel trait for the genus. Lodicules pump like steam engines as the flags of gynoecium and androecium unfurl to disperse and collect anemochorous wares. Spikelets fall short of D. villosissiumum and rarely exceed 1.9mm length.

Its ligule further distinguishes it from D. villosissimum and D. acuminatum into which it has been lumped as of late. The ligule is much too long for this (exceeding 1.0mm) and has a unique shape in that the central hairs are shorter than the marginal ligule hairs.

Home in the prairie, beneath the big grasses where voles hide from hawks and lizards find shade. Hidden, hairy, ligulate, praecocius.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Botanist

A botanist is a natural historian. A collector of facts and events that he employees in the speculation of one's influence on the other. A botanist listens as the ancient seas of the Ordivician tell stories 450 million years old. He can feel the impact of an asteroid 65 million years ago, smell the soot from increased volcanism, and give witness to the subsequent diversification of mammals and angiosperms. In his mind, he can not only see the glaciers of the Pliestocene melt and distribute the great soils of the Midwest, but he can smell the tundra and hear the Mammoth’s call. He sees anthropogenic fires, the hypsithermal, the prairie pennisula, the bloody sword of DeSoto and John Deere's polished plow. He tries desperately to explain how today's mistakes and yesterday's blindsightedness form the inevitable consequences of tomorrow. And as the perpetual inaction of society oozes onward, he need only think of glaciers and oceans, extinctions and speciations, and the ever expanding march of time to know that maybe, just maybe, the sky isn't falling, just yet.