On a walk on the Watchman Trail, visitors can find native desert grasses blooming in the spring. Native peoples in Zion collected Indian ricegrass (Stipa hymenoides) because of its relatively large, protein rich seeds. This wispy, delicate grass is a classic bunch grass, growing in tight clumps up to two feet tall. It is well suited for the dry areas of Zion, going dormant during the summer and then turning green again with the spring rains. After its seeds are dropped in the early summer, two papery, tan colored glumes persist. The glumes are leaf-like structures that once enclosed the seed.
Native Desert Grasses
Needle and Thread Grass
Another bunch grass found in similar sites in the park is the eye catching needle-and-thread grass (Stipa comata). This tall, droopy grass also likes sandy sites and has a needle-like seed head with a large awn, or tail, which is infamous for piercing animals’ skin or feet. This tail coils as it dries, working to plant itself into the earth.
Last updated: February 24, 2015