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Grasses at a Glance

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Green lawn grass with fallen leaves

What color is your lawn this fall?

As the days shorten and winter approaches, nature has taken on a bleaker appearance. Deciduous trees have lost their leaves, wildflowers have gone to seed, and many plants have taken on a straw to brown color as their aboveground growth dies for the season. How does your lawn look? One place that...
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woman holding clump of soil and roots

Going underground to explore the hidden benefits of grasses

Before the first hard frost came at the end of October, I planted many native plants around our new house. I brought some of my favorite plants with me in our move and was determined to get them planted this fall. One of the pots I brought with me had a Little Bluestem plant in it that I have been...
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infestation of Japanese Stiltgrass

Be on the lookout for invasive grasses

One of the reasons plant identification is so important is to help us tell the difference between plants that contribute to a healthy ecosystem and those that interrupt those interactions. Certain plants are exceptionally good at causing problems for natural communities, and require intervention...
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close up of the flowers of Gama Grass in bloom

Taking a closer look at grass pollination

It’s difficult not to notice grasses at this time of year – all of the large warm-season grasses seem to be in bloom. Have you taken a closer look at grass flowers? They are amazing to see in bloom, when the anthers and stigmas are visible. Grasses, as you may know, are wind pollinated. Unlike...
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group of Switchgrass in bloom

Identifying Switchgrass, a warm-season grass

If someone asked me to name the most iconic plants of the tallgrass prairie, I would start with the grasses. Who could talk about a prairie without mentioning grass? The top three grasses that scream “tallgrass prairie” are Big Bluestem, Indian Grass, and Switchgrass. Why? These are all robust,...
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Short, clumping grasses planted in a garden

Value of grasses in our managed landscapes

I am making plans to add some new garden beds in my backyard. Starting with a blank slate can be daunting, but there are certain questions I ask myself when considering if a plant makes the cut to go in the garden. Besides matching the growing condition requirements of the plants to the conditions...
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field of smooth brome with seed heads

Identifying Smooth Brome, a non-native grass

Last week I attended the North American Prairie Conference in Altoona, Iowa. Shoutout to the blog readers I met there! As is typical for me, on my drive to the conference I was identifying the plants I could see on the roadsides. One grass in particular was ubiquitous in the landscape – Smooth...
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bunch of deer tongue grass on woodland edge

Identifying Deer Tongue Grass

A few weeks ago I was leading a plant identification hike in a restored prairie. Naturally in a prairie system, there are a lot of grasses to identify! We saw some tallgrass species as well as some weedy grasses. We also saw one of the 30+ species of Panic grasses that we have in Illinois, ...
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clump of Tall Fescue

Identifying Tall Fescue

Last week while leading a guided hike through a prairie restoration, I was able to observe numerous species of grasses – both those that are desirable in a restoration, and those that are remnants of previous land uses. While I saw native Prairie Dropseed, Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, and Indiangrass...
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