Photos of the Week – October 18, 2019

I think I have a problem. No, that’s not right. I DO have a problem. I’m unable to walk past milkweed seeds this time of year without stopping to photograph them.

To be fair, recent freezes have eliminated most flowers and insects from the prairies around here, so photo subjects are a lot more limited than they were a few weeks ago. What am I supposed to do? Stop walking through prairies with my camera? Ha ha! No, of course not. I’m still out there looking for beauty and diversity. And I’m easily distracted by the airy filamentous pappus of a milkweed seed gently waving in the breeze.

As a result, my walk through Lincoln Creek Prairie last weekend resulted in a raft of milkweed seed photos – both butterfly milkweed and common milkweed, I’m sharing a subset of those here.

I’m very sorry.

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.

14 thoughts on “Photos of the Week – October 18, 2019

  1. I love it too and I also love milkweeds. When I was a kid on a farm in north Iowa, they were considered a weed that was not invasive. I remember my uncle rubbing milkweed juice on his warts in an effort to remove them; not sure if it worked.
    If you’ve never smelled a milkweed blossom, you’re missing out on one of the most glorious scents on earth.
    It is heartening to see the grassroots effort of helping the monarchs by protecting milkweeds; one sees them in many nooks, crannies, and grocery store parking medians!

  2. Lovely photos, Chris, and I think I have the same problem! Last weekend I was out seed collecting with my Wild Ones chapter, and I had to keep stopping to photograph the milkweed pods. It was a breezy day, and I took video of the fluff blowing in the wind. Just so beautiful!

  3. Hi Chris,
    I was out on Thursday collecting pods of common milkweed from our Newell and Ann Meyer Preserve in Wisconsin. The sun was bright and the milkweed was in various stages of development. Some were still tight as green pods, some were just beginning to crack open, attended by their retinue of milkweed bugs, and some were explosive, downy bouquets.
    I am harvesting the pods to send to a volunteer who once lived near our preserves but then moved to Topanga, California. Last year I sent the pods to her there and this year she has moved again, so I am sending pods to her in Boston!
    What happens to the pods? She laboriously separates the silk from the seed and sends me the seed. She uses the silk to make yarn. Our local TNC legal staff gave me the OK to do this saying that the silk would have been waste to us so it was OK for her to take it. Each year for the past few years, she has sent me five to 10 pounds of seed in February or March.
    I’ve offered to make her a gin to clean the seed or show her how to use a Shopvac to clean it but she prefers to do it by hand.
    What would we do without our volunteers?

  4. That’s some beautiful fluff. I have various mounds of it around my garden that I sometimes mistake for a white fluffy cat that comes around. And vice versa. It also has a tendency to stick to my cherry tomatoes.

  5. Thank you, Chris, for these wonderfully evocative photos! I’m laid up with foot surgery this fall (I’m sure you can relate) and have missed a lot of cool botanical stuff. Your photos and narratives have provided some much needed nature.


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