Thursday, 9 April 2020

No 101 - The forgiveness of grass

One thing the coronavirus lockdown has not inhibited is my little alien-clearing project on the slope below my cottage. Where a year or so ago a self-seeded monoculture of Port Jackson wattle (aka long-leafed acacia, Acacia longifolia) suppressed almost all other growth, now you are waist-deep in fynbos species, little knobwoods, rhus and thorn-tree saplings coming up, all manner of tight ground-cover and tiny flowers. And, with particular prominence in this fecund autumn season, sudden tall grasses of various species. I had never paid a great deal of attention to grasses, much as I loved the way sun shone through fluffy or spear-like seedheads with a special coppery luminosity, the fragrance of Zimbabwe's dry tawny winter hillsides that I ran over as a child. Now grasses are growing apace in the wake of my eradication, exemplifying what Graham Harvey called, in his book of that title, the "forgiveness of grass". And where we humans pull back, or otherwise disappear, through pandemic or nuclear conflagration, what will first assert itself, in Jonathan Schell's phrase, is a "republic of insects and grass".

So I've made some effort to identify some of these amazing hardy creatures, apart from the ubiquitous kikuyu. I find this quite hard, many species being similar, or different at successive stages. If anyone 'out there' can see I've made an error, do let me know. Finding names for them, however coldly scientific they may seem, is my way of making friends with them, so that next time I can, as it were, shake hands and accord them due respect.

Natal red-top


Freshly-mown kikuyu makes an excellent venue
for dozens of tunnel-spiders to spread their webs,
shimmering with dew in the mornings

Yellow nutsedge, not technically a grass, apparently.

Small buffalo grass, Panicum colorata

Bristle grass, Setaria sphacelata

Bristle-leafed red top, Melinis nerviglumis

Dallis grass, Paspalum dilatatum

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