Excerpts from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter

from the November 10, 2013 Newsletter issued from the Frio Canyon Nature Education Center in the valley of the Dry Frio River in northern Uvalde County, southwestern Texas, on the southern border of the Edwards Plateau, USA

Though it appears in the picture's center below, you may find it hard to pick out it out our featured grass.


However, if you get down low and view the panicle-type inflorescence against the sky you see that the homely little grass has a graceful side, shown below:

Indian Lovegrass, ERAGROSTIS PILOSA, panicle

Despite bearing up to 14 florets, individual spikelets are extremely small and slender, only about 1mm across (1/32nd inch), as seen below:

Indian Lovegrass, ERAGROSTIS PILOSA, spikelet

The ligule -- the wall-like structure at the base of many grass leaves where they meet the stem -- consists of a low fringe of densely packed, short hairs, and the lower leaf blade itself bears especially long, soft hairs, as shown below

Indian Lovegrass, ERAGROSTIS PILOSA, ligule

Last week we looked at Bigtop Lovegrass, Eragrostis hirsuta, which also bore very small spikelets in an unusually diffuse terminal panicle. Now we have the closely related ERAGROSTIS PILOSA, often known as Indian Lovegrass. You might enjoy comparing the two lovegrass species, which structurally are very similar, though in general gross character they look quite different. Indian Lovegrass stands stiffly erect while Bigtop Lovegrass tends to sprawl. Bigtop Lovegrass's page is at http://www.backyardnature.net/n/h/lovegras.htm.

Our roadside Indian Lovegrass isn't called Indian because Indians used to roam western Texas, but because it's native to tropical and warm temperate regions of the Old World, including the Indian subcontinent. Here in the Americas it's an invasive weed. Other common names for it include Hairy Lovegrass, Jersey Lovegrass, Small Tufted Lovegrass, Soft Lovegrass, and Spear Grass. As noted last week, it's not known how this group of grasses came to be called lovegrasses, but that name has been in use for centuries.