Ah, the pleasures of grass!!
GOTCHA!! All you baby boomers out there of course thought this piece was going to be about that recreational drug of our youth, especially since I am in Colorado where marijuana is legal. But no, I am writing to sing the praises of that broad plant family called grass that has thrived this year around my cabin thanks to all the rain. Almost a dozen species have created a beautiful, luxuriant undulating sea on the slopes down to the creek. Three of my favorites are mountain brome, blue grama, and Indian rice grass—each distinctive and fascinating.
As I drive up the country road to my cabin, the gravel track narrows, bracketed by a thick stand of gigantic Bromus maginatus, a species of grass known commonly as mountain brome . The plant books say this perennial grass grows to four feet, but these giants tower over me as I get out to inspect their heads waving in the breeze. The nodding tassels have bunches of 5-10 bristle-tipped tiny yellow flowers. The leaves are long and a little hairy. Mountain brome is native to western North America, and cattle love it as do other grazing animals including mountain sheep and deer. Birds and rodents savor it also. Farmers and ranchers value it because it can tolerate drought, and its shallow root system is good for erosion control. But here in the subalpine wilds where it is native among the sage and rabbitbrush, mountain brome likes moister areas best. The little niche where this stand has flourished flooded back in June when the nearby creek spilled over into the meadow along the road providing the perfect habitat, an odd oasis in this high-mountain desert that gets barely a foot of moisture in an average year.