Bottle Brush Grass

Grasses are hard for me to identify. I tend to take pictures of a grass and tack an identifying name to it reflecting what it looks like or where I found it. That’s what I did with bottle brush grass.

Grasses bloom, or boot for ranchers, from spring into fall. Many pasture grasses are cool season grasses and send up their flower stalks in early summer. This is when their nutritional value is highest and when ranchers want to cut and bale them as hay.

bottle brush grass plant
The best place to photograph grass plants is along the road, but dust does coat the plant. Bottle brush grass has only the flower stalks when it blooms. Some blades or leaves are along the stalk. Later the plant will have more blades come up from the roots.

Bottle brush grass is a warm season grass and not included in the pasture roster. It grows along the road here. Lots of it is along the road this year.

When the pastures were baled, another warm season grass was blooming and I did want to identify it. I do have a guidebook for grasses. It has an identification key at the beginning. I thumb through the drawings as I’m not very familiar with grass terminology.

bottle brush grass flower
Like other wind pollinated grass flowers, bottle brush flowers are little more than a couple of stamens hanging out to release pollen and a brushy pistil sticking up on top of the seed waiting to catch some pollen.

Of course I didn’t find the grass I sought. However I did find my bottle brush grass. And to my surprise, that is what it is called. So now I consulted Flora of Missouri, volume 1. The official name now is Elymus hystrix in the family Poaceae. All the grasses seem to be in this family found in over 300 pages of the book.

This is a native grass common in Missouri.

One reason for my interest in the grasses is my ongoing botany project. More immediately I am checking out grasses as many of our basic foods like wheat, rice, barley and oats are all domesticated grasses.

bottle brush grass seed head
Close up the bottle brush grass seed head is a bit sparse. From a distance the resemblance to a bottle brush is much greater. The stamens will drop off. Each of the seeds will swell up and turn brown as they ripen.

As “The Carduan Chronicles” progresses, one of the challenges these aliens face is finding food. Grass seeds would qualify. Larger seeds would be best.

Bottle brush grass has large seeds for a wild grass. There aren’t a lot of them on any one head, but each plant puts up several seed heads. I’m wondering what the seeds will taste like once they ripen.

Ozark roadsides have many interesting plants along them. Meet some of them in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”