Seeds for the year ahead

Like any gardener, at the start of the year my mind turns naturally to seeds. Something to do with new resolutions and new generations, even if spring is still far off. My favorites are the ones that are packaged in dramatic pods, or that float on the wind, or both. Today there is a breeze, so I shall show you some airborne ones.

Top of my list has to be common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. The young pod is big and green and luscious looking

but then it dries, and splits open to reveal rows of tightly layered seeds,

each of which has its own tiny parachute .

The pod opens wider, and the seeds escape captivity and head out into the world.

The empty pod is sculpturally elegant,

and in closeup after a heavy dew, the individual seeds look like a many tentacled octopus, or the aigrette from a 1920’s dancing girls’ fan.

The superficially rather different plant, Butterfly Weed, Asclepias tuberosa, has similar seedpods on a smaller scale:

that also contain skydiving seeds:

Not so dramatically, but still prettily, the common wild clematis, Clematis virginiana, bears seeds with personal aerial equipment too, but they are not protected by a pod. They start like this:

and as they mature the whole seed head becomes a white fluffy mass, giving the plant the common name of Old Man’s Beard (mixed here with Winterberry)::

Each seed has a long tail with a feathery fringe, which helps it get airborne.

Sort of a cross between a kite and a sperm.

3 thoughts on “Seeds for the year ahead”

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