How do you annotate the inflorescence and spikelets of grasses?

I wanted to annotate my plant observations. I have photos of grasses with inflorescence and spikelets. But should a spikelet be flower bud, flower or fruit? Same goes for inflorescence of the sedges (Cyperaceae). Wouldn’t it be helpful with “inflorescence” as an option?

With grasses, you can generally tell when the flowers (in the spikelets) are blooming, because the anthers are visible. I find it harder to tell the difference between buds and seeds.


I encountered this same “issue” recently, while curating the observations in genus Eriophorum (Cyperaceae) in New England. After reviewing hundreds of observations, I realized there are very few photos of flowering individuals in the database. As suggested by @caththalictroides, I started looking for anthers, which I annotated as having “flowers”. Once I knew what to look for, a few more observations of flowering plants surfaced.

After finding the flowers, I had a reference point to search for flower buds. Sure enough, there are a (very) few photos of budding plants in the database, which I marked as having “flower buds”. Finally, if a given plant is not budding, and no anthers are visible, I marked the plant as having “fruits or seeds”.

Even though there are relatively few observations of budding and flowering plants in the database, now there are enough annotated observations to construct a meaningful flowering phenology chart.

Btw, I was shocked when I first saw a flowering plant of any given species since it didn’t look at all like the typical fruiting plant of that same species. As it turns out, most of the observations in this genus include photos of fruiting plants.


I work with grasses. I find their photos hard to annotate, too. The spikelet isn’t a flower but a group of bracts that hides the true flowers and the fruits. If the anthers or stigmas are sticking out the grass is in flower. Yeah! We can tell that! (Except if the plant is self-pollinating, as some are. Their anthers and stigmas may never stick out.) If the anthers or stigmas are not visible, it’s harder and I leave some unannotated. However, the basic idea is that if the inflorescence in some way looks young (e.g. still wrapped in a leaf or still narrower than it will be), it’s in bud. After flowering the florets (units within a spikelet) get just a bit thicker because of the growing seed and I annotate them as in fruit. When the spikelets turn brown the plant is definitely in fruit. Annotate what you can but don’t feel it necessary to annotate every single photo.