|Eastern Gamagrass, by Dick Malnory|
Last week Dr. Hugh B. Garnett came into the Visitor Center at the Refuge to say that he had found Eastern gamagrass growing along Refuge Road, near the main entrance sign for the Refuge. He went on to add, “Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides) is one of the foundation grasses of tall grass prairies in the eastern half of the USA and is unusual west of interstate 35 in north Texas. Pristine tall grass prairies west of Interstate 35 usually include only four tall grasses (Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Indian grass, Switchgrass) and very rarely do we see Eastern gamagrass, and where it is found, it is in low, very moist depressions.”
|Eastern Gamagrass, by Jack Chiles|
According to NPIN, on the Lady Bird Johnson WildflowerCenter website, Eastern gamagrass can grow 10 ft. tall, but is usually 2 – 3 feet tall. It is interesting primarily for its terminal inflorescences which have separate male and female flowers. The stigmas are purple and the stamens are orange. This plant is a native perennial, related to corn and deer readily eat the hard, yellow seeds of the plant, as do grain-eating birds. The leaves are evergreen; the plant provides cover and nesting sites, and is good for grazing. It attracts butterflies and is a larval host for the Bunchgrass Skipper.
|Eastern Gamagrass, photo by Hugh Garnett|
Dr. Garnett added, “This grass also blooms and sets seeds much earlier than the other tall grasses in this area. It will begin blooming and setting seeds in late May to June, while all the other tall grasses (Big Bluestem, Indian grass, Switchgrass, and Little Bluestem) don't bloom and set seed until early fall.”
Refuge Manager Kathy Whaley said the grass may have been planted by Saul Petty, in a mix of native grass seeds sown in the area seen by Dr. Garnett. If so, welcome back to Hagerman NWR, Eastern gamagrass!