Sunday, October 18, 2020

Beauty in an arid and darkening landscape: Oryzopsis hymenoides in New Mexico

During our trip to New Mexico in Fall 2019, we visited White Sands National Monument, and one of the notable species we noticed among the few other plants that dotted the stark landscape was Oryzopsis hymenoides (synonym Achnatherum hymenoides), whose common names include Indian ricegrass and sand rice grass.

While traveling later after a visit to Bandelier National Monument, we stopped to view some scenery at a small hilltop. While the wife went off to find a nice viewpoint, I wandered around in wonder at the dried whitish grasses that stood like ancient sentinels on top of the small hill.

One grass in particular looked fantastic in the light of dusk, and with the help of L. Pilkington in a grass identification group, I determined that it was indeed my old friend from White Sands.

This C3 perennial bunchgrass is a native to the area, and can survive in quite a range of environments, from desert to pine forests. In other words, it is like many other grasses in its inherent adaptability, although it does particularly well in sandy soil, using it roots to anchor the particles together. 

I'd also like to suggest that it would make a great ornamental, at least in its dried state, and in the dusk ;-)

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