Thursday, March 10, 2011

copper-gold sunset

copper-gold sunset
burnt sienna big bluestem
between field and road,
remnant of prairie thriving
on strips of unbroken ground

Before the steel plow, big bluestem was one of the most common perennial bunch grasses in the tallgrass prairie that covered the Midwest. Big bluestem can grow as tall as three meters. The roots go deep, sending out tough rhizomes which form an incredibly strong sod. In an area devoid of trees or rocks, early settlers used blocks of sod to build their first dwellings, called “soddies.” This sturdy grass, along with its cousin, little bluestem, is so called because the new shoots in spring turn blue-purple at the base. In autumn the grass turns a deep orange, forming a colorful stand throughout winter. Big bluestem is also called “turkey foot” because the seed heads have three spike-like projections. Big bluestem frequently grows in isolated clumps along roadsides where the ground is undisturbed. However, to flourish, this prairie grass needs occasional fire, either set by lightning or by humans, to eliminate competing trees and shrubs.

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