Friday, June 13, 2014

Just grass. And spit.

The grasses are probably the most important of the plant families to us humans. I'm ashamed that I know so little about them. I collected heads one afternoon, from one small field; there were more than a dozen different grasses, but I could never identify them.

I occasionally take photos of an interesting head, and then try to find it in my books or on the web. I never do; they're more confusing than caterpillars! My guidebook, Plants of Coastal BC, says there are over 200 species in our area, mostly indigenous.

At Elgin Heritage Park last week, we found a few that I'd never noticed before.

The terrain: flat river delta, soggy wet, even in mid-summer. The grass would be over our heads, but we're standing on the bridge. Behind us, on the opposite side of the bridge, the grass is mixed with taller cattails.

Along the pathway, grasses compete with the blackberries and other shrubs, springing out of the thickets to dangle their seed heads in our faces.

This was really red, almost purple in the sunlight. A tall plant.

Another one, even more purple against the buttercups.

I think these are the same kind. They are growing on the riverbank, with no competition.

Laurie found this, a fuller, fatter head. It seems, from the photo, since I didn't see the plant, to be a rush. But which one?*

*Laurie says it's probably Cocksfoot grass, Dactylis glomerata.

Note to self: "Sedges have edges, rushes are round." The stems, that is.

Farther from the shore, where the ground rises and dries out, other, shorter grasses grow around the lupins. And this week, they were in the midst of a population explosion:

Spit bug** heaven!
**Nymphs of the Froghopper family, aka Spittle bugs, snake spit, frog spit. Laurie knows them as "cuckoo spit". The one that we see in this area is the Meadow Spittlebug, Philaenus spumarius. I have found them on my roses and the hydrangeas at home.


  1. Great pictures! I've had the very same experience - fascinating but hard to identify.

  2. What an interesting bug adaptation. I'm starting to notice tent caterpillars in lots of the alders. Not good, they've barely recovered from the hard hit a few years ago. - Margy


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