Circling Around to Autumn

Green milkweed (Asclepias viridis)

 

More often than not, the release of milkweed seeds is straightforward: a pod splits, then opens. Over time, wind, insects, birds, or the occasional human hand help to send the seeds on their way.

But even a straightforward process can have its moments. Here, a pair of apparently fluff-connected pods betokens a new season as the cycle of life rolls on.

 

Comments always are welcome.

 

52 thoughts on “Circling Around to Autumn

    1. I think ‘twin podcast’ is clever as can be, especially since ‘twin’ could apply both to the pods and to the casting of the silky seed.

      We’re awash in milkweed pods of at least three species, and have been for some time. What’s interesting is that as recently as two or three weeks ago, the green milkweed had started blooming again. Conditions must have been just right for it this year.

    2. It hadn’t occurred to me until Gallivanta jogged my memory that I photographed these two pods in the same field where I met the two women who also were interested in forming a local NPSoT chapter. Now, two years down the road, we have 120 members, and after two years as secretary, term-limited me is ready to find other ways to contribute. Funny how things develop.

    1. Now that you mention it, they are rather bird-like, and the one on the left seems especially pleased with itself.

      I didn’t see the birds at first because of the circular feel. It reminded me of the wreaths that farms and ranches put on their gates; it’s about time for fresh autumn wreaths to show up, and this would be a good one. I’m not sure even the best crafter could replicate it, though.

        1. It is. Especially in the fall and winter, you can find everything from wreaths to fanciful creatures made from hay bales, and lots of pumpkins. Corn shocks, too. Somewhere I have a photo of a terrific turkey made from a round hay bale, and I know I have a couple of wreaths. I’ll see if I can find one.

    1. It’s really a shame that milkweed has ‘weed’ in its name. I know farmers and ranchers aren’t fond of it, and with reason. But the man who works the field where these were growing happened to be around, and we had a nice talk about the pros and cons of the plants — especially their importance to the butterflies. He uses the land as a hayfield, and only cuts it twice a year, so at least it’s not getting scalped on a regular basis.

    1. We used to use milkweed pods in every sort of fall arrangement, along with bittersweet, red dogwood, and of course colored leaves. Has Southern Exposure ever made use of milkweed? Surely they have — it was an icon of fall in Iowa.

    1. You got it, Debbie. Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, and they lay their eggs on the plants. That’s why so many groups are encouraging people to plant native milkweed in their gardens to help the monarchs. There are a lot of species of milkweed, and they’re all pretty.

      I like your interpretation of them as dancers. Maybe they need someone to accompany them on the flute!

    1. Isn’t that the truth? It’s a problem in so many places, and one reason that nature programs for kids are so important. It’s also important to say ‘enough!’ to mindless development. Of course people need places to live, and businesses need space to thrive, but we have entirely too much empty commercial space around this area, and too much building on spec. More often that not, the best answer to the question, “Do we need another strip mall?” is “No.”

      1. One of the strip malls I go to is building on. Publix is getting a whole new building; a restaurant is going in the old one; new roofs for existing buildings and a new fast-food place on the corner. The aquifer below must be getting more rain water seeping down, cause the dump trucks, back hoes and cranes are making HUGE pot holes in the parking lot!!! Ahhhhh…. Progress

          1. Well I have certainly been letting life get in the way haven’t I? I actually collected a lovely dead horse shoe crab not long ago in excellent complete condition and with interesting barnacles on its leathery looking carapace. How slow can a horse shoe crab be to have barnacles on it? I plan it for a still life soon as I can get around to it. Maybe with shells or even, oh no, flowers. :) Judy

  1. Linda, I think this pic is your best one yet. It is simply beautiful. With a little imagination I can see a snowy egret with plumes blowing in the wind or some kind of exotic bird. Upon first glance I thought these were goats beard pods but these are fantastic. I think this would make a gorgeous print and one deserving of a frame.

    1. I’m glad it appeals to you, Yvonne. An egret’s a natural association because of its white plumes, and you’ve reminded me of a snowy egret I watched battle the wind on Galveston Island. The most amusing photo isn’t as sharp as I like, but I may post the series anyway, just because you’ve brought it to mind.

      It’s easy to see why you thought of goat’s beard. This is the fluff season, for sure. Between thistle, old man’s beard, milkweed, and a whole variety of little fuzzy things, the birds are happy as can be.

      1. Linda, I hope you find the time to post the egret. Not all photos must be tack sharp in order to be interesting. I surely would not be critical of any that are not super sharp. Mine never are because I hand hold my camera for the butterflies but they satisfy me and that is all that I really want in my life at this point. Unless you are a perfectionist or you plan on selling your pics then if they provide a good story and something of interest then I love seeing good finds.

    1. When I was a child, I don’t remember ever seeing milkweed flowers; I only paid atttention to the pods. Now, I know several species of milkweed, and it’s interesting to see differences in their pods.

      It’s fun, too, to see evidence of the seed-savers here and there. I occasionally wander into an area where the pods have mesh wedding favor bags tied over them. The sunlight and rain still can get through, but when the seeds are ripe, they’re nicely contained.

        1. Mostly groups, or individuals who are members of groups. Our native plant society chapter has members who go out two or three times a week at this time of year. The prairie supporters do, too. There are huge quantities of various seeds gathered for use in restoration efforts. And there are individuals who gather milkweed seed to propagate plants for nurseries or their own gardens, or for local civic butterfly gardens.

          About three years ago, I met two women looking for milkweed in the same field where I took this photo. We started talking about our desire for a native plant society chapter in our area — no one wants to drive into Houston for a night meeting. One thing led to another, and we have our chapter, with 120 members. My two year term as secretary’s coming to an end, so I’m looking around for another way to contribute.

  2. What a marvellous photo and a great find in having 2 together like that. They’re a very attractive seed pod with those loose strands blowing in the wind.

    1. I enjoy seeing them when they’ve first split, too — when the seeds are visible but still tightly packed inside the pod. If only I could pack a suitcase like that. I was so pleased to find this pair. Even when multiple pods have opened, they’re usually not so attractive.

    1. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen tow hair, but now that you mention it, the resemblance is there.
      One of my favorite memories of Liberia comes from time at Bong Mine, a venture of LAMCO, the Liberian-American-Swedish Mining Company. It always was fun to see the tow-headed Swedish kids playing with the Liberians kids: quite a contrast.

      1. It’s so long since I last heard the term tow hair that I had to stop a minute and think what it meant! Apart from the tow hair, I see a bird on the right and a dolphin on the left. The dolphin is leaping and sending water spray into the air.

    1. In wartime, milkweed fluff was used for life preservers, too. It’s amazing to me that it can be used in those ways — able to retain its fluffiness under pressure, so to speak. It’s especially nice that the seeds are being harvested in the process, and used for replanting. There are a lot of people here who harvest seed for butterfly gardens or other plantings.

  3. Even before reading it above, I thought of Egrets preening with that wonderful display of feathery plumage. I am waiting for similar sights here, although the pods along our driveway don’t seem to be allowing the silk to fly.

    1. I don’t know how rain and humidity affect the pods. I’ve never considered the possiblity that damp weather might slow or even prevent their opening, or at least keep them from that nice, crisp splitting that allows the seeds to unpack themselves with ease. Who knows? If your seeds don’t fly, maybe you’ll have a bumper crop of milkweed next year; they’ll just hang around the neighborhood and do their thing more locally. That wouldn’t be all bad.

  4. Lovely twists and turns in the floss from the two pods, makes a fine photograph. In my area, it’s mainly Asclepias syriaca and the showy, orange-flowered Asclepias tuberosa. I didn’t realize that Monarchs used green milkweed as a food plant as well.
    I still don’t know why farmers don’t like common milkweed. I wouldn’t have thought it could crowd out cultivated crops. With the widespread planting of Roundup (glyphosate) resistant corn crops, there’s a less caterpillar food plant for Monarchs.

    1. As far as I know, they will use any of the species. We also have whorled, comet, aquatic, and slim milkweed in our area, and they all serve just as well. As I recall, there are 36 or 37 native milkweeds just in Texas — including the two you mentioned.

      Slowly, slowly, some farmers are coming around to milkweed as a crop. Apparently roadside plantings don’t appeal to monarchs as much as plants in fields, and they also prefer smaller stands of the plants, so strips of the plants between row crops, or small butterfly gardens, can do a lot to support them. There certainly is a lot of emphasis on such gardens here, and I’m glad.

      I do know that cattle can react badly to milkweed’s toxicity, so that’s one reason to keep them the plants out of the pastures.

      1. It turns out there are more milkweed species in the northeast than I knew, a comparable number of species to Texas, but not all in Massachusetts, and a number are rare or uncommon. Green milkweed is in Connecticut, for example. There’s a pretty purple milkweed I’d love to find.

    1. They are, and they were great fun to play with when we were kids. One thing everyone had to learn is that if you decide to use unopened or half-opened pods for dried arrangement, they need to be sprayed with laquer or even hairspray. Otherwise, the force of nature would open them up on your dining table, and the seeds would be drifting all over the house.

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