Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Who needs large petals and sepals? Eragrostis superba

(c) Riaan Lizamore

Grasses do not have large showy flowers like many other flowering plants because they are wind-pollinated. You can read more about wind pollination, and why grasses embraced a life without animal pollinators here.

The specialized reproductive structures that they do have can be exquisitely beautiful, but this beauty can sometimes only be fully appreciated with the help of macro lenses.  

I have a particular fondness for grass inflorescence that have purple or reddish hues, but the absolutely gorgeous pink and light green colors of the spikelets in this Eragrostis superba floored me when I first saw it. In the image, the orangey-pink anthers are held on whitish filaments, with white fuzzy stigmas poking out from between them. The green-striped structures that enclose them are specialized spikelet bracts. For a primer on grass structures, click here.

The species is native to Africa, but also occurs in other disparate locations, such as California and Hawaii. It lives in sandy soils in open woodlands or sparse grassland up to about 1,500 m in altitude. It can also occur as a pioneer in disturbed areas. Some common names for this plant include "Weeluisgras", "Sawtooth love grass" and "Wilmann love grass".

After seeing specimens like this, I am starting to really like this genus of grasses.

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