This is the season of flying fluffy seeds. Asters, thistles, blazing stars, milkweeds, and other late season flowers are sending their seeds into the air, a few of which might actually land in a place where they can germinate. Each of those seeds is attached to a filamentous structure, variously called a pappus or coma, depending upon the species of plant. Those fluffy structures catch the wind and allow the seed to travel many miles, in some cases – though most land within a few meters of their origin.
Seeds that can float on the air are a nice adaptation for plants, but they are also attractive photographic subjects. Over the last week, I’ve photographed the seeds of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), dotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata) and tall thistle (Cirsium altissimum) in some local prairies. Here are a few of those photos for your Friday enjoyment.
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.