Grass-On the Radar

 

Canadian Wild Rye grass Elymus canadensis

 

Today we hunted for the elusive Canadian Wild Rye grass (Elymus canadensis) at the Clinton town beach.  Before we left, Patrick Sweeney, Peabody’s collections manager in botany, checked in the herbarium for dried specimens from CT.  He found a specimen collected by Lauren Brown in 1968 at the Clinton Town beach.  She wrote notes about where it was found and that it was somewhat abundant in one spot.  Patrick had high hopes that we could find it.  So, Patrick, my wife Celia, and I set out.  The temperature was in the mid-20’s and there was a gale wind blowing off the Sound when we got out of the car.  We started near the Hammock River and walked along the edge.  It was almost completely covered with invasive phragmites.  Patrick said that the grass is usually found in dry upland habitats (there are records of it on West Rock ridge).  It wouldn’t be found in wet or tidal areas, but just back from the tidal zone, the sandy edges surprisingly, fit the habitat description-at least the dry part.  We surveyed along the park edge and sure enough, right at the base of a red cedar we found it!  There were three stems with the spiky tipped flower part.  We were happy to find it, but it wasn’t an abundance.  So we kept walking.  My eyes were watering from the cold so it was difficult to survey with confidence.  45 minutes later, we called it quits.  We had found two more little stands, maybe seven stems total-not enough to collect.  We certainly didn’t want to wipe out the remaining evidence of this grass from the site as this would defeat the purpose of the diorama, eh?

My family and I go to Rochester for the holiday break and Lake Ontario is within an hour’s drive.  My wife and I will take a trip up there and see if we can find it along the shore.  It should be a very close match to the habitat we are trying to reproduce in the diorama.

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