I think I’m falling in love. No, not with Louise – well, yes, I did that in 1954. I mean I have a new love. I think I am in love with grasses.
For some reason I have been ignoring grasses these last 14 years. In that time I have learned to identify about 500 different wildflower species, and every tree species in these southern Arizona mountains, but grasses were a great, deep mystery. It seemed impossible for anyone to learn them. Because I hadn’t really looked at them, they looked all the same to me. And then my friend Jim suggested that I start photographing grasses. He would help with identification. Immediately I knew that this was going to be my next project.
I learned that there are fewer than 200 grass species in the Catalina mountains. (In one list I have there are fewer than 100). Surely I could get to know the grasses. I found one hiking with Ed in Turkey Run last week, and then went to Molino Basin a few days ago and found lots more. At this point I am not able to put names to any of them.
Last evening my wife and I decided to abandon the idiot box and go for a stroll in Molino Basin.
We left our house at 5pm. We arrived at the parking lot at about 5:20. This was a half hour before sunset, but the sun was already obscured by the hill to the west, so we could walk without hats or sun screen. It was a beautiful evening, clear, light breeze, perfect temperature. We walked up the paved camp road – less than a mile. The roadside was lush with grasses. When we turned around I decided to see how many distinct grass forms I could see on the way back to the car. I was struck by the great variety and stunning beauty of the fruiting heads of these grasses. I was also struck by how easy they were to tell apart. I realize that this will not always be the case, but in the space of less than a half an hour I figured I had seen over thirty different species.
At one point Louise stopped me to point out a line of ants scurrying across the road carrying white bundles of some sort. . With my binoculars I could see that many of them were carrying grass seeds, like the beautiful one in this photograph.
And here is one of the grasses we found yesterday. The first picture shows a branch. The second moves in closer, and the third closer still.