Senescence

Here’s a word I learned this semester. Mostly in regards to grass but I think it is applicable to other plants as well.

It has to do with the phase of life of a plant from maturity to death. It’s also when a perennial grass translocates all of it’s nutrients and energy down to the roots for winter storage. Those above ground plant parts that are now dead and can be referred to as ‘standing dead’.  They will eventually breakdown. They have senesced. New tillers will come up, they may be there, poking up, now in late December, depending on the plant. The dictionary definitions available in a google search of the word all say it has to do with deterioration with age. I’m not sure if there’s a major difference in how rangeland professionals use the word and the clinical, dictionary definition.

Senesced switch grass, Panicum virgatum, December 2017

Switch grass and others, senesced, McCoy Pocket Prairie Winter 2017

How is this relevant to the pocket prairie? I think it’s important to know just what’s happened to the grass. It’s senesced. It’s translocated it’s stores of food and energy into the roots. What’s standing out there today is not going to come back to life but the roots are still alive and new grasses and forbs will grow from that if they are perennial in our zone. The standing dead still serves a purpose though. It holds the seeds that wildlife need to make it through the winter. It’s also providing cover for wildlife, insects and domestic roaming pets included. All the dead grass out there isn’t very pretty unless you know what’s happened and that it has a purpose. After that, your eyes start to tune into a different kind of beauty. Slowly. Hopefully.

 

 

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