One of my favorite aspects of my square meter photography project has been the chance to closely follow the lives of individual organisms over time. For example, I’ve closely followed the progress of the two butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) plants within the boundaries of my square meter plot. The plants bloomed beautifully back in late June, which was great, though fewer pollinators visited the flowers than I had hoped. Perhaps correlated with that, only one seed pod was produced between those two plants. Since then, I have been watching that one pod very very closely…
This week, that pod finally opened up, giving me the long-awaited chance to photograph some milkweed seeds within my plot. As it turns out, it’s a good thing I was vigilant, because that pod opened up and emptied itself out out very quickly. Within only a few days, the pod went from tightly closed to completely devoid of seeds.
While many of the seeds were blown well out of my little plot, a handful got stuck on adjacent plants, giving me the chance to photograph them. Here are some photos of those seeds as they were coming out of the pod or after they got hung up within the borders of my plot.
To this prairie photographer, milkweed seeds are like candy – I just can’t get enough. As I’ve walked around this fall, I’ve had a very difficult time walking past any milkweed plant without stopping to photograph the silky seeds shimmering in the light. They’re just so FLUFFY!
(And yes, botanist friends, I know the fluffy part isn’t actually the seed, but is an ‘appendage’ called the coma – or less accurately, the pappus – that aids in wind transport of the seed. And the brown parts are actually the follicles that CONTAIN the seed. Yes, yes, and yes. Allow me this vulgarization for the sake of simplicity, ok?)
It’s getting a little harder to find milkweed seeds that haven’t yet blown away, but they’re out there. I keep seeing them as I walk through prairie and drive down the highway. I can hide the Halloween candy so I don’t snack on it all day, but who’s going to hide all those milkweed seeds?