Thursday, November 18, 2010

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.


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.