This evolving display makes for a pleasant drive into our nature park and we achieve this nice park feature by doing nothing and simply not mowing (and saving taxpayer money!). Though some visitors might see only “weeds” and disorder and wish they saw manicured lawns instead, or don’t see anything at all because they stay in their cars and blast through the park, we hope those who take their time will appreciate the subtle beauty and splendor. Those who value such things may be in for a real treat this fall for it is anticipated that the Broomsedge (Andropogon virginicus) on the parkway will put on quite a spectacle.
This plant has multiplied explosively this year and now dominates some of the roadside. Their flower heads have been slowly developing on spire-like stalks and will soon flare out to bloom with hundreds of thousands of cream-colored seed fluffs that stay with the plant into winter. These fluffs are part of a wind-bourne seed dispersal system, similar to that employed by Dandelions, Cottonwood shrubs, Black Willow trees and many others. The key to this propagation strategy, and the secret to its beauty, is the flower’s feathery bristles or filaments called its “pappus” are attached to the plant’s miniscule seeds. These lightweight structures are gradually released and whisked away by breezy gusts that help the plant spread to new territory – just as it apparently did along the parkway for in previous seasons the distribution of Broomsedge at Camp Salmen was somewhat more restricted.
The “lightshow” anticipated from this plant is from a phenomenon called “backlighting.” We routinely see this on the banks of Bayou Liberty late on any sunny afternoon as the western sun shines through the Spanish moss hanging from the oaks to create a gossamer sheet of fetching brilliance. We look forward to a similar, sublime display as the Broomsedge fluffs are backlit by the late afternoon sun and hope this gives the discerning driver another reason to admire our park as they wend their way along the Parkway. Park visitors who take the footpath along the tree line paralleling the Parkway and walk among the chest-high sedge will come face-to-face with its brilliance in the late afternoon.