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Word of the Week: Spikelet
September 11, 2019 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Big Bluestem grass flowers

Spikelet [SPAHYK-lit] (noun): A small or secondary spike, characteristic of grasses and sedges, bearing one or more florets. It describes the typical arrangement of grass flowers.

Just a few weeks ago, the Big Bluestem grass that grows in and around the OURSpace gardens had their flower spikelets out. The flower spikelets are usually clustered at the tips of the stems or in the axils of the leaves. They are often described as looking like a “turkey foot”. The flower spikelets will also produce fruits with straight or twisted bristle-like extensions, known as awns.

With its slight blue colouring at the base and reddish fall hue at its tip, Big Bluestem grass is one of the many characteristic species of the grasslands habitats in North America. This includes the endangered Black Oak Savannah, that we have right here in High Park!

This ~2m tall grass plays an important role of helping control erosion on the land in which it grows, because of its deep roots (which can be as deep as the plant is tall). It also provides shelter for nesting birds and insects and can be an important source of food for larger animals, like the white-tailed deer.

Keep an eye out for Big Bluestem on your next visit to High Park’s grasslands!

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