June 26, 2003

Field of Daisies II

image copyright Fred First

Our field of daisies (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum) is lovely, but the white petaled flowers with egg-yellow centers are mere intruders in a sea of grasses. The grass family (Poaceae) contains all of our grains, and they are of great nutritional and economic importance, to be sure. But the grasses are also worthy of attention for aesthetic reasons, but rarely photographed to this end, seen more often as images of pressed specimens on herbarium paper.

I have found it impossible to do justice to the form, color and habit of any of the native grass species that grow across the creek among the orchard grass and other members of the 'intentional community' planted in our field. Their colors are subtle and grass flowers generally lack showy components to attract insect pollinators since this family uses wind effectively as a means of getting pollen to the female parts elsewhere. A single grass plant is linear in form, not falling cooperatively in a single photographic plane, making it difficult or impossible to single out a single plant in focus and in good contrast from its neighbors.

I never took the time to key the grasses when I was a student. They lacked interest to me as I shuffled through the herbarium specimens, and their wirey forms and tiny indistinct glumes and lemmas and awns and such did not excite my curiosity the way the symmetry of petaled wildflowers did. And so my apologies to the grasses this morning, as I admire a field of nameless but beautiful plants that hold dew and sunlight so well in the early light, and the daisies get all the glory.

Posted by fred1st at June 26, 2003 06:22 AM | TrackBack

First thought as the computer slowly filled the picture in on my screen was, "Wish Fred would tell me what the grasses are." Thanks for addressing them. I've always (well, for at least 57 years) thought grasses beautiful--especially in the fall and winter when they present such beautiful colors. Some years ago, Phillips Petroleum Company put out a beautifully bound "Pasture and Range Plants" book (with transparent plastic jacket, yet) that they offered for a reasonable price. I sent copies to everyone in the family! The pictures are, however, well executed artistic renderings rather than photos.

Posted by: Cop Car at June 26, 2003 07:51 AM

What a beautiful piocture and for sure, reminds me of lazy summers spent as a child hiding in long grasses such as these, playing hide and seek for hours. Wonderful, thanks for that.

Posted by: Alexandra at June 26, 2003 05:55 PM

My first thought was "Ah-choo!"

Native grasses are rare at our Western extreme. I've learned the names of a few and come to respect the bunch grasses. Unfortunately, most of what sprouts on hills are foreign invaders such as wild oats and foxtails which were planted for forage by the ranchers who squared off the property lines in these parts.

A few parks have started to war against the invaders. Against cries of "species fascists", they strive to restore nature. It's a wonder to see a slope entirely covered by native flora: you get a completely different feel for the place, a sense that there is still a real California worth reclaiming.

Posted by: Joel at June 27, 2003 02:49 AM

California is such a lovely and varied state--from the rolling hills to the craggy mountains to the estuaries and shore lines the variety is astounding. Except for the obvious savannah grasses and alfalfa that have been imported, most of us (who are neither Californians nor grass experts) know whether we are gazing on native or import. It's nice that someone is vigilant.

Posted by: Cop Car at June 28, 2003 08:13 AM

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