Photo of the Week – November 14, 2013

Last week, I took a short early morning trip out to my family prairie.  As the sun came up, its light was caught beautifully by the fuzzy seeds of various prairie plants, particularly stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida) and dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata).

A stiff goldenrod seed is ready to fall from a seedhead.

A stiff goldenrod seed is ready to fall from a seedhead.  Helzer prairie, near Stockham, Nebraska.

Species with fuzzy parachute-style seeds trade distance for time.  Their seeds can be carried far from the plant, giving them a chance to colonize new areas.  However, because the seeds have to be light weight, they tend to have short shelf-lives, and can’t survive for very long – they will either germinate quickly or die.  Bulkier seeds often have the ability to survive for years in the ground and then germinate when favorable conditions appear – but they don’t typically travel very far from their parent plant.  Life is a series of tradeoffs!

More goldenrod seeds.

More goldenrod seeds.

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And more.

And more.  In this photo, the contrast between the brightness of the seeds and the shadows behind the plant were such that the camera couldn’t capture it all, resulting in a black background behind the correctly-exposed seeds.

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Even after the petals (and even the seeds) fall, goldenrod flowers are still very attractive.

Even after the petals (and even the seeds) fall, goldenrod flowers are still very attractive.

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Dotted gayfeather also has short-lived, high-flying seeds.  However, once a new plant is established, it puts down deep roots (literally - as deep as 10-15 feet).

Dotted gayfeather also has short-lived, high-flying seeds. However, once a new plant is established, it puts down deep roots (literally – as deep as 10-15 feet).

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More dotted gayfeather seeds.

More dotted gayfeather seeds.

Photo of the Week – October 12, 2012

It’s been a windy week, but there was a lull for a few hours yesterday morning.  I took advantage of some early morning light and took my camera for a walk in a local prairie.  There was a lot of red and gold color in the grasses and wildflowers, but I was really drawn to the white fluffy seeds of milkweeds and false boneset that were catching the warm sunlight.

A few remaining false boneset (Brickellia eupatorioides) seeds barely hang on to the flower head. Restored prairie at The Leadership Center in Aurora, Nebraska.

I have some more photos to share next week, but this seemed an appropriate one to end a week of blustery fall weather.  Have a great weekend.

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