Passion Flowers (Passion Vines) are members of the family Passifloraceae and are quite common on Wafer Creek Ranch where two species have been identified, purple passionflower, Passiflora incarnata, and yellow passionflower, Passiflora lutea.
Purple Passion Vine Passiflora incarnata
Yellow Passion Flower Passiflora lutea
The milkweed subfamily contains 348 genera distributed almost worldwide. Our milkweeds of genus Asclepias that exist in the North American temperate zones are forbs having toxic sap, containing cardenolide in the stems and leaves that are poisonous to animals except for the milkweed insects, for which the plants serve as the larval host. Such is the case for the imperiled Monarch butterfly, as well as the Queen butterfly and several species of moth.
The legumes are exceptionally important plants of the grassland woodland ecosystem because they are a very important food source for animals. They produce nectar from the flowers and protein from the seeds (the peas and beans). The legume seeds (the beans and peas) tend to hold their protein content longer than the grasses and other forbs in late winter. In addition, they enrich the soil by their symbiosis with nitrogen fixing bacteria (rhizobia and other bacteria) within the root nodules of the plant. The rhizobia take nitrogen from the air and convert it to nitrogenous compounds, such as ammonia, nitrate and nitrogen dioxide usable by plants, including the host legume, and other organisms.
Legumes represent the third largest terrestrial plant family on Earth, following the orchid and sunflower families.
Now that we have completed the brief survey of the grasses (family Poaceae) of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodland grassland we can move on to the forbs. Forbs are non-grass, non-woody plants, which basically means that they are not trees, shrubs or grasses. On the other hand, herbaceous plants include the forbs along with the grasses.
In this post I will continue the list of the salient warm season grasses of the shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodland. However, I remind you that there are numerous other grass species that are part of the ecosystem, so these seven grasses (three listed in the previous post and four in this one) represent only a few important “poster children” of the system.
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) is the dominant “matrix” grass of our shortleaf pine-oak-hickory woodland grassland just as it is with the vast majority of all tallgrass prairie groundcovers whether in a prairie or a woodland or a savannah.
Little bluestem is a warm season grass. Grasses are divided into cool season grasses that bloom and go to seed in the spring, and the warm season grasses that bloom and go to seed in fall; and some grasses are both.
Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
It was a grassland! I’ll get to that, but first a word about some of the North American grasslands of old.
It’s difficult to imagine what it would be like to actually see and appreciate the vastness of the grassland prairies of the Great Plains because today they’re almost all plowed under and gone. However, there are still a few small remnants remaining as the last examples of unplowed prairie—and they are beautiful, historic vistas where the buffalo roamed and native American people followed the herds. Such preserved sites are well worth visiting.
The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, Northeastern Oklahoma.
Little Bluestem in foreground.
Johnny Armstrong, Author
Now that my 42-year career as a pathologist (which I like to think of as being Columbo behind a microscope), is a story for another time, I’m focusing more time and energy on my long-time passion for and commitment to critical conservation issues. As a first-time published novelist, I’m also discovering the new and sometimes exciting, sometimes baffling world of book promotion. Shadowshine is my first novel.
“Up there on your bookshelf between Tolkien and Watership Down is where this book belongs. As an anthropomorphic adventure that winds through the realm of animals possessing courage, savagery, perseverance, and ultimately wisdom in the face of mounting evil threats – humans disconnected from the natural world – the tale is relevant, if not necessary.”
Kelby Ouchley, author of Bayou Diversity: Nature & People in the Louisiana Bayou Country
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Shadowshine, An Animal Adventure
by Johnny Armstrong
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