Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A Flowery Conundrum: Allergic Beauty

Purple pollen bearing anthers in T. dactyloides

 It's that time of the year again when the world conspires to make me as miserable as possible.

This year, the slow change in global climate has resulted in an even earlier start to the allergy season, and pundits note that this will also stretch the season, something that is bad news indeed to countless allergy sufferers like myself.

Nevertheless, I like taking long walks in the afternoon, and while i was strolling along the landscaped sidewalks of our suburban community, I noticed how the rows of ornamental Trypsacum dactyloides (with the common name Eastern Gamagrass)  had started flowering.

The colorful purple anthers of this species are borne on white filaments, and when I stood in front of masses of the columnar spike-like inflorescence, my allergy suddenly took a turn for the worse. I started sneezing, and my eyes started to water somewhat.

Masses of anthers and filaments in the stamens of T. dactylodes inflorescence

My reaction was not surprising, given that some of the inflorescence were positively groaning under the weight of tons of pollen-producing anthers. 

If you remember from previous posts, this species is monoecious, with imperfect (or unisexual) flowers. Monoecious means that there are both male and female flowers on the same individual plant, and unisexual flowers have only either male or female parts. Most grasses have perfect flowers, where both stamens and pistil are present in a flower. 

The stamen is composed of anthers and filaments and is the male part of the flower, and the pistils are the female part of the flower. The stigma is the outermost portion of the female pistil, and in this species it is feathery in appearance, and also an attractive purple color. The stigma is involved in capturing pollen from the air, and its feathery appearance probably aids in this function.

A spider hides near a spent stigma and some anthers

In Trypsacum dactyloides, the male flowers are located on the upper part of the inflorescence, while the female flowers are near the base. I noticed that in some plants, some of the inflorescence have matured anthers, while in the rest of their inflorescence, it is the stigma which is showing first. In other specimens, both anthers and stigma are present at the same time.

Stigma of T. dactyloides

T. dactyloides is native to the area, and I love how landscapers have used it extensively in both commercial and residential properties here in Central Florida. Its dark green leaves and fascinating floral structures make it a very attractive addition to the scenery. But the same colorful flowers that I enjoy so much might also be a major contributor to the misery I feel every time Spring rolls around. Such is the paradoxical nature of life!

Stigma of T. dactyloides


  1. Great photos, love the detail and purple + green is my favorite color combo! Sorry to hear about the allergies, no fun (I know).

    1. Thanks! Many grasses have purple stigmas, and purplish anthers also occur. Now that you mention it, I wonder whether there is a reason for the color bias.