Plant Guide > Grasses > Gama Grass

Gama Grass


Tripsacum dactyloides L.

The day when this grass is first seen, and is recognized as a member of the same family whose smaller species are commonly trodden under foot, is a day unforgotten by the nature-lover.

With stems more than shoulder-high, with leaves so large as to resemble Indian Corn, and with thick spikes of oddly formed blossoms, the Gama Grass, as it grows in low meadows and along streams, is one of the largest and most remarkable grasses of the Eastern States.

The coarse, branching stems rise from stout rootstocks and, unlike those of the majority of grasses, are solid, being filled with pith. The blossoming spikes are peculiar in form; the stamens and pistils are in separate flowers, and in midsummer long, orangecoloured anthers clothe the upper portion of each spike, while for a short time feathery stigmas of dark purple hang from the pistillate flowers below.

These fertile flowers are deeply embedded in boat-shaped cavities which are closed by hard and shining scales, and as the upper portion of the spike soon falls, the thick basal part is left, and easily breaks into short joints each containing a seed.

Although smooth and shining, these seed-capsules lack the symmetry of form and the agate-like surface which characterizes the fruit of "Job's Tears," a closely related species which is occasionally cultivated as an ornamental grass and whose seeds are sometimes used for rosaries.

Gama Grass. Tripsacum dactyloides L.

Plant perennial, from stout rootstocks.

Stem 3-8 ft. tall, solid, stout, erect, branching. Leaves 1 ft. long or more, 6"-18" wide.

Spikes 2-4, 4'-9' long at summit of main stem, solitary spikes on the branches. Spikelets of two forms; upper part of spike composed of 2-flowered, staminate spikelets about 4" long, outer scales obtuse; 1-flowered pistillate spikelets below deeply imbedded in the rachis, outer scale of pistillate spikelets hard and shining, enclosing the recess in which the flower is embedded. Stamens 3, anthers orange colour, large. Stigmas purple, long.

Moist soil, swamps, and borders of streams. June to September.

Rhode Island to Florida, Texas, Missouri, and Kansas.