When an observer looks at the seedheads of Schizachyrium scoparium (Little Bluestem), they may gasp at its beauty, and marvel at the whitish fluff that decorate the reddish main axis of the inflorescence. But little do they know what a complex piece of biological engineering that whitish fluff is when viewed at the macro level.
As many of the Orang Poa (Grass People) know, the unit of reproduction in grasses is the spikelet. The spikelet contains the florets ("flowers") of the grass, and of course the florets (like any flower) contain the stamens (male) and pistils (female).
In the case of S. scoparium, the spikelets form a complex little unit with many parts.
Pairs of spikelets run along the axis of the raceme of the inflorescence. Each pair is composed of 2 spikelets (see image below).
The smaller spikelet in the pair sits on top of a pedicel, and is rudimentary and hairy. The larger and fertile spikelet is sessile, with two structures called glumes completely covering the two florets inside. One of the florets is sterile, while the fertile floret has a long bent awn that extends from its central nerve and extends out of the glumes. You can see the bent awn of the fertile floret in the image below, but the rest of the floret is hidden inside the enclosing glumes.