Tuesday, September 3, 2013



Locally, the yellowing foxtail grass is an early prelude to autumn. There are many species in the genus Alopecurus, which literally means “foxtail," so it’s hard to tell one from the other.

The tall grass grows in tufts and produces green flowers in dense tubular panicles that mellow to golden maize in color, its seeds waiting to be spread. One of the dried flowers looks all the world like the last part of the fox as it disappears into its den.

Grass seeds are dispersed in a variety of ways, often they hitchhike as Tom Joad noted in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. (As you may recall, the novel begins with Joad hitchhiking back to his boyhood home.)

“The concrete highway was edged with a mat of tangled, broken, dry grass, and the grass heads were heavy with oat beards to catch on a dog’s coat, and foxtails to tangle in a horse’s fetlocks, and clover burrs to fasten in sheep’s wool; sleeping life waiting to be spread and dispersed.”

Joad's life had been asleep as well, but that was about to change as his family was about to be dispersed cross country.

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