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Friday, March 30, 2012

Mastery of the Grasses

Today we gathered for last official practice before heading off for West Texas for our Wildlife contest.

We have been in this project for eight years and have gone to the State contest at least 5 times (maybe more...can't keep track).  Every year we kick ourselves for not learning the grasses.  Every year we vow to learn them for the next year.  Every year we fail in our attempts.

It really comes down to time.  I have never really taken the time to sit down and look at the differences.  It is one of those moments we have all had at one point or another...they all look the same to me!

Well, that was until today!  I think we might have figured it out.  I studied the book of grasses I found, including the parts found on a grass.  I then thought about how I would describe each variety of grass, especially looking for details that make them different.  Here is what I discovered about these plants:

Broomsedge Bluestem:  stiff stem with little brooms attached to the top of the stem, decided the tufts coming out of the seed pods reminded us of dust bunnies left in the broom after sweeping (Hey, no one said we were being scientific here!)

Johnson grass:  crown of seed pods on top of stem with somewhat long spikelets. (rhizome root system)

Kleingrass:  crown of seedpods on top with beady seeds (knotty base that extends out before going up)

Little bluestem:  taller than expected given its name, longer brooms coming from the top of stem with long spikelets (fibrous root system)

Plains Bristlegrass:  tall stem that is capped with single stem of beady seeds (fibrous roots)

Rescue grass: seed pods branching out from stem in clumps (fibrous roots)

Ryegrass:  alternating seed pods going up either side of tall stem rhizome roots)

Sideoats grama:  seed pods only grow to one side of the stem with wavy stem (either single or rhizome roots)

Switch grass: crowned with seed pods branching out from stem, pod looks like the W in its name

Texas Wintergrass:  crowned with seedpods branching out from stem with long wispy spikelets

Vine mesquite: (I did not even know it was a grass until I found it in my grass book!) tall stem that droops with beady seed pods along tops, only specimen on our contest with obvious stolen rhizome root system

Wildrye:  reminds me of wheat, so easy to distinguish from the others.

That was what we did with most of our time.  We were able to review all the parts of the contest (a few changes for this contest).  We especially reviewed the land management techniques.  Very different from what we have learned in WHEP, so I hope 4Hers do not get confused with two contests.

It was a great practice.  Maybe we will have some informal meetings before we leave.  I know the boys and I will be practicing a lot in the next two weeks.  trying to make our personal "best better."

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