|Bouteloua curtipendula (side oats grama)|
Species from the genus Bouteloua (from the subfamily Chloridoideae) are one of the dominant plants of the shortgrass prairie.
These relatively small grasses include Bouteloua gracilis (blue grama grass), Bouteloua dactyloides (buffalo grass), and Bouteloua curtipendula (side oats grama)
The shortgrass prairie is an ecoregion that is semi-arid, with cool winters and warm summers. It occupies a slice of land in North America to the west of the more famous tall grass prairies, with a region of mixed grasses between them. As indicated by the name, the ecoregion is dominated by short-statured grasses such as Bouteloua spp.
|Modified from wikipedia By User: TheshibbolethHowpper|
A lot of the attention on prairies in general are focused on the tallgrass species, such as Andropogon gerardii, Schizachyrium scoparium, Panicum virgatum, and the like, but as I travelled through the states with mixed and short grass prairies, I fell into serious liking (even loving!) for the short-statured grasses that are found in these expansive areas.
Both B. gracilis and B. dactyloides are really small grasses, but their reproductive structures are quite distinctive and in my eyes quite beautiful. The inflorescence of B. gracilis (blue grama grass) is small, but easily seen with the naked eye even from the height of a person, since they usually occur in masses.
The species is especially attractive when the bright green anthers start poking out from the spikelets, and I have seen this species used quite liberally as ornamentals here in Colorado, and elsewhere, such as western Kansas. I remember my first experience with this species was in New Mexico several years back. At the time, I had never seen such an odd looking inflorescence.
|B.gracilis with green anthers and ant on top!|
B. dactyloides (buffalo grass) is even more unusual when it comes to reproduction. It is one of the few grasses that are mostly dioecious, with some individuals having only female flowers, and some individuals having only male flowers. In addition, most grasses have perfect flowers, which contain both male and female reproductive parts in the same flower, but B. dactyloides flowers are mostly unisexual, either having male OR female parts.
The staminate (male) flowerheads are distinctive, with bright orangey anthers. Unlike B.gracilis, it is a bit harder to spot B. dactyloides by its flowerhead from a distance, but I've found that experience seeing the grass many times does help.
|B.dactyloides male staminate flowerhead|
|B.dactyloides female pistillate flowerhead|
|B. dactyloides staminate spikelet|
|Bouteloua curtipendulaa (pre-anthesis)|
|Bouteloua curtipendulaa with orange anthers and white stigma|