|Burs/Spikelets of Cenchrus echinatus|
One of my favorite group of grasses are the so-called sandburs or sandspurs.
These are species in the genus Cenchrus, and they sport spikelets ensconced in armored, thorned burs. There are usually several spikelets nestled within the shell.
|A single inflorescence of C. echinatus|
I find the resulting structures (which are sometimes vividly colored) attractive in a dark and deadly way; botanical weaponry that is achingly beautiful in its form and function.
But the main function of the burs is actually more mundane, as they are principally used to disperse the seeds of the plant via animal hosts. The thorns frequently catch onto the skin or clothing of some passing host, and the entire bur is then carried far away from its original location. There have also been studies that show the bur floats and aids in dispersal via water.
|Less mature burs/spikelets of C.echinatus|