Ever wanted to know more about sorghum*, besides wondering if it’s a dental disorder?
I didn’t either, until I found some growing in my yard. I’ll point out that my yard is located much closer to city skyscrapers than to any fields in Kansas, Texas or Nebraska, the top producers of sorghum in the U.S.
A few months ago, we thought we were growing corn. What appeared to be a corn stalk poked out from the bad soil between our yard and our neighbor’s in an area where only weeds have had success in the past. Coming so late in the season, we were sad that it would never have time to grow as high as an elephant’s eye, and since the weather is cooling, would likely linger for another month at its current height of two and a half feet.
Hours of gazing at small photos of corn stalks on the internet led me to conclude that while our plant has leaves like a corn plant, it’s not corn.
In an attempt to be encouraging, a neighbor, who’s grown corn herself, suggested we might be growing feed corn for livestock (useful for a neighborhood with many small dogs and one orange cat), or possibly something we could pop and slather with butter. But it’s neither. What’s appeared most recently is not silk, but growths that look like feather dusters of tiny seeds.
Sometime this year, I read a headline that said, “Sorghum making a rebound in Europe thanks to climate change.” That news meant nothing to me a few months ago, but today it’s bristling with significance.
The European sorghum is thriving because of warmer, dryer weather. This past summer set records for hot, dry weather on the West Coast of the U.S. Our thermometer hit 108 in June. Wherever the seeds for our plant came from—a windstorm blowing in from the Midwest or a bird dropping— they found the right climate to thrive in for 2021.
The last time neighbors congregated on our block was to watch the power company install two new street lights. Having already had conversations about our plant with a few neighbors, it appears our sorghum has the potential to become another roadside attraction. The local bird population already shows keen interest and may help build a flourishing local crop starting in 2022.
*Sorghum is a grass grown originally in Africa and used for animal feed, alcohol production and a biofuel. (Wikipedia)