Monday, August 11, 2014

Going to seed

I've been gone for a week--probably a good time of year for that since things don't change much for the wildflower world in the middle of summer.  We've had some decent monsoon rains judging by the rain gauge, and it's kept things from getting too dried out.

But time marches on and we're in the middle of summer.  That means that all the Spring flowers have already gone to seed and lots of the summer flowers are making their seeds, too.  

I've talked about the Aster family and it's composite flowers, but once the flowering ends many of them turn into puffballs like the familiar dandelion seeds.  One thing I didn't quite figured out till i started pulling flowers apart was how they turned into puffballs.  The little umbrellas that carry the seeds on the wind are called pap pus.  When the flower is first forming, they are present, but in the middle of the blossom, all tucked away.  In the photo below I've pulled a few out on the left side. You can see how the individual flowers all extend down so that the seeds are all formed side by side.  As the flower withers, the petals fall away and the pap pus puffs out.  When the wind comes along, they're ready for another invasion of your lawn.  Although you may not like it for dandelions, it spreads seeds very effectively for lots of other native asters, too.

The pea family is another one that makes some interesting seeds.  The Groundplum Milkvetch that we saw earlier in the year gets its name from its seeds, which, as you can see below, look like some kind of weird fruit laying on the ground.  

Groundplum Milkvetch seeds (Astragalus crassicarpus)
On the other hand, Lupine are much more like the typical peas, and grow fuzzy pea pods as the flowers fade.  It's easy to find these since the Lupine are still blooming, so look for a few purple flowers.
Lupine seed pods (Lupinus argeteus)

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