Skip to main content

A REALLY big grass!

A seemingly innocuous roadside within Shawnee State Forest in southern Ohio's Scioto County. However, a very special and extremely rare plant occurs on this dry bank; the only known station for it in the state. I was here a few weeks back, and we made a point of stopping to investigate this plant and see how it was doing.

The slender bamboo-like canes in the foreground are our rarity, an enormous native grass known as Silver Plume Grass, Saccharum alopecuroides.

Your blogger provides some scale to the plants, which tower over my head. John Howard, who was with me and took this photo, counted about 32 flowering culms (stalks), I believe. That's it; all of the majestic Silver Plume Grass that we know of in the entire state. This species is at its extreme northern limits at this very site, and the Shawnee population is one few of that occurs north of the Ohio River.

One would be excused for blowing this one off as some sort of ornamental garden grass that jumped the garden fence and went feral. The flowering spikes - plumes! - are quite robust and showy. In fact, many a botanist had often driven by this very site and not picked up on the grass until the legendary Daniel Boone spotted it back in the 1990's and put it on the map.

Silver Plume Grass is but one in a long list of major rarities that make Shawnee State Forest such a botanical paradise.

Comments

ben said…
That reminds me of a grass that I assumed was an escaped exotic that is all around ridgetop roadsides at the Red River Gorge, Kentucky. I'll have to check that out next time. Thanks for posting.
Jim McCormac said…
Hi Ben,

Good chance that your KY grass was this species. It becomes rather frequent to the south of Ohio.

Jim

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…