Ground Stop


While Wilmington and Charleston airports briefly closed due to Hurricane Florence, Houston airports have been instituting ground stops because of severe thunderstorms.

Irritating as a ground stop may be for travelers, there’s a time to wait things out. Here, a seed from green milkweed (Asclepias viridis) settles to ground and prepares to wait out the rain that interrupted its own flight.


Comments always are welcome.


70 thoughts on “Ground Stop

  1. Tiny world most elegant (and sensible). Lovely portrait.
    (Sun! We had sun for an hour! Now if we could only swat the mosquitoes away so we could enjoy it. We didn’t have rain Sept 8th.but have had it every other day in Sept. Stay dry and keep swatting them buzzy ones!)

    1. There’s sun in the forecast for today and tomorrow, so it’s time to find the repellent and get out there to do battle with those buzzy ones. Some of the reports coming in from guys who headed out for yesterday’s dove season opener are nearly apocalyptic. On the other hand, the mosquitoes were just as thick in the HEB parking lot last night, so there may not be an escape for a while. At least the dragonflies, birds, and bats will be happy.

      1. We can hardly let the dog out. Dog walk outings are more marathon dashes – she doesn’t want to be out any more than us.
        Lizards, frogs and dragonflies are really busy.
        Dove season – already. How time floods along. Guess that’s why one of our neighbor’s hasn’t been seen much recently. He’s tough and determined. (State hired him as hog hunter for a few years..maybe he can get hired as mosquito swatter?)

    1. Just as a few hurricane reporters resort to tricks like chaining themselves to posts to increase the drama of their live shots. As serious as Florence is, there have been moments, like this one. I hope by now someone’s explained to him that leaning into the wind’s the better option.

      1. I wonder if he was positioning himself to shield the microphone with his body as much as possible.

        By the way, was this the only wet mikweed seed you’ve ever seen? I don’t recall ever seeing a wet one.

        1. That’s a good point about the microphone, and it makes sense. It’s been interesting to follow the discussion about the broadcast, both pro and con. What’s certain is that the long history of weather stunts done for dramatic effect isn’t particularly helpful.

          This is the one-and-only wet seed I’ve encountered. Chris Helzer has a photo of one in a 2010 blog entry. I bumped into that while looking for an answer to the question of how far milkweed seeds could travel.

    1. It’s quite the apparent contradiction, isn’t it? After I read your comment, I thought about spider webs: so apparently fragile, and yet strong enough to trap and secure prey.

  2. I really like seeing the seed which is light and silky and almost too beautiful to settle to earth.

    Hurricane weather has brought much needed rain but I shudder to know what the wind and rain is doing to the states along the eastern United Sates. It seems that some part of the U.S. is going to get a dose of hurricane winds. New Orleans, Miami, Houston, New Jersey and New York in past years. Mother nature is beautiful but also unforgiving.

    1. I’ve wondered occasionally how far milkweed seeds can travel. Of course, blowing a mile or even more might not be advantageous for the plant. If the seed ends up in an area where conditions aren’t as favorable for germination, all that flying around would have been for naught.

      As for the hurricanes: they come and they go. Even before the Great Storm of 1900 destroyed Galveston, there were two hurricanes that wiped out Indianola.Had it not been for those storms, Galveston might not have become Texas’s primary port. For that matter, there might not have been the Houston Ship Channel, or even Houston. We have Christopher Columbus’s record of his encounter with a storm in Hispaniola, but it would be so interesting to find the records — if any — of what the native people experienced on our coast even earlier than that.

  3. Nice comparison between the interruptions in daily life for humans to the plant world. While the Ground Stops for people are temporary, this seed may end up stranded by its strands.

    1. Of course, that stranding may be all to the seed’s benefit. Seeds that get grounded in conditions resembling those enjoyed by the parent plant may have a better chance of germinating and reproducing.

      People in airport lounges may feel as though they’re putting down roots, but in time they’ll move on, since movement’s the point of it all. But for this seed? Getting grounded may be the best thing that could have happened to it.

    1. I suspect not, partly because it almost surely was caught before it was so nicely decorated by the droplets. It’s not very likely that wet fluff would fly. On the other hand, as I mentioned to Steve, it seems to have landed in a spot that might give it a good chance to establish itself and grow: not the worst end to a journey.

    1. And the milkweed got caught, too. Lucky for us, or we never would have seen this pretty sight. One of the things I’ve learned in even my short time of roaming with a camera is that just because I haven’t seen something doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist!

    1. Given the amount of time you spend in nature, that surprises me.On the other hand, I suspect all of us have walked over soggy milkweed fluff lying on the ground after a rain. Had this bit not been caught and suspended , there wouldn’t have been anything to notice.

  4. We’ve been having a private snicker at “Hurricane Florence” since that is my mother’s name, an otherwise very not funny interruption to a lot of lives and threat to a lot of property. Ground stops are a fact of life.

    1. I remember my mother being teased when Typhoon Wanda struck Hong Kong. As I recall, it was my dad who did a good bit of the teasing. That was many years ago, and the storm was very far away. It’s not so amusing when they’re closer to home.

      Oddly enough, Florence came ashore only a day after the tenth anniversary of Ike, and I heard as much discussion about Ike as about Harvey in the past week. There were some similarities between them, and Florence is going to be a benchmark storm for them in the same way that Ike was for us.

  5. What a fantastic capture! :)
    Are you getting some rain, too? Here, it’s been raining – a good constant rain but no downpour – ever since around 1:30 AM.
    Enjoy your weekend,

    1. Rain? Oh, my: yes. We received 18.75″ between September 1-14, and only one day was without rain. But today the sun’s out, as it was yesterday, and the mosquitoes are frolicking. I presume the milkweed’s drying out, too. In a bit I’m going to head down to the Brazoria refuge and see if those dried out mudflats have held on to some of this water.

    1. The leaves certainly look similar, don’t they? Because I was using my macro lens, I suspect the leaves belonged to sensitive briar, or catclaw, which is common as can be. Its leaves fold when touched, too, which explains the ‘sensitive’ part of the name. As for parachutes, that’s a perfect description. They were great fun to play with when we were kids, just as we played with maple seed ‘helicopters.’

  6. Fabulous photo, Linda – it’s like crystal!
    I hope the hurricane doesn’t cause as much devastation as the one that lost a friend of mine her home: Katrina.

    1. Florence didn’t have the winds of the worst storms, but the flooding is terrible, and it’s ongoing. There were warnings aplenty, well ahead of the storm, but some people either didn’t pay attention, or didn’t believe it was going to be ‘that’ bad, or for other reasons chose not to leave. The year of Katrina and Rita was a terrible year; I hope your friend has recovered.

      The photo is one of my favorites. It’s not quite as sharp as I’d have liked, but I’m happy to have managed it at all, and I do like the crystalline appearance you mentioned.

      1. I’m not sure she’ll ever quite recover. Last year (when I was still using Facebook – which I’ve since left) when the season began she was terribly anxious. I must email her and check she’s okay.

    1. There’s always something new to see, and sometimes there’s even the pleasure of seeing something we never imagined possible. Rainy milkweed seems a contradition in terms!

      Florence’s winds dropped before landfall, but the flooding’s creating serious havoc, partly because the storm moved so slowly. It’s past time for her to get on down the road (or up, actually, as she’s projected to move north and east).

    1. It only this minute occurred to me that, nice as the analogy is, there could be another meaning. Perhaps Mother Nature grounded this bit of fluff for misbehavior. I can’t imagine what milkweed misbehavior could be, but it’s fun to imagine the possibilities.

    1. I would think so, Tina. I suspect we rarely see milkweed fluff like this because most rain leaves it in a sodden pile on the ground. My theory is that it got caught first, and then the moisture collected on it. Who knows? An hour later and the weight of the water might have pulled it down.

      What’s especially interesting is that Steve Schwartzman and montucky, two photographers who spend far more time in nature than I do or probably ever will, never have seen the phenomenon. I happened on one photo by a prairie manager in Nebraska, and another in an image search, but that’s it. The world is filled with wonders!

    1. It’s an amazing sight, to be sure. We’re accustomed to the strength of spider webs, but this isn’t so often seen. On the other hand, it does help to explain why milkweed silk has been used for everything from pillows to life preservers during WWII. It’s obviously more water-resistant than I knew.

        1. I never had heard of that, even though I’ve found a couple of dozen sites mentioning it, now. At first I assumed it was the air in hollow stems that did the trick, but I finally found a page that reminded me of something I’d forgotten: that the stems are filled with that sort of frothy pith. Thanks for adding that little detail!

    1. It does look graceful as a dancer, doesn’t it? It certainly is living out that advice that’s so often given: “Dance as though nobody’s watching.” Only this time, I saw the dance, and now you can, too!

  7. Seedy neighborhood indeed (ouch!). I bet it’s going to go to ground at that spot, not fly on, and grow to a fine new milkweed plant. Interesting how different the seed shape is from the oval common milkweed.

    1. I’m sure you’re right. I can’t imagine how it could lift off again. On the other hand, I never would have imagined a single seed getting caught, being covered with water droplets, and then hanging around for a photo shoot. There are mysteries and marvels out there, for sure.

      I noted the seed shape, too, and thought it was as interesting as the wet fluff. It was the first time I’d realized that seed shapes differ among the species. It should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t.

  8. I heard you might be getting rain. I’m so behind — I’ll never be caught up here in Blog Land. Hope all is well waterwise with you. Maybe it was closer to the coast. Gorgeous photo as always!

    1. I think I’m closer to the coast than you realize — 23 miles to Galveston, 23 miles to Houston. So, yes: we got plenty (18+ inches) of rain. But it came over two weeks, so all is well. Now, we have heat and sunshine again, so it looks more like summer than autumn, but the milkweed fluff knows better. It’s time for seeding, even though new plants are springing up.

    1. The pods are quite large, too: at least, compared to those of other varieties I see here. I saw some huge milkweed plants in Kansas, and I wonder now what their seeds look like. I haven’t identified the species yet; once I do, I’ll explore the seeds.

    1. What a neat comparison. Now that you’ve mentioned fiber optics, I can see it, although I never would have thought of it. I read an interesting article about seed dispersal that made the point that seeds which land closer to the parent plant may have a better chance of germinating. If they fly too far, they could land in a place where conditions aren’t suitable — too dry, too rocky, too concrete parking lot — and that’s the end of the story.

      1. The so-called ‘pioneering’ flowering species are able to germinate far from the mother plants. These are mostly what they call the invasive ‘weeds’ which are able to find the right conditions to germinate in hostile environments, such as parking lots, etc. In P.R. there was an invasive milkweed that used to grow all over, precisely because of how easily the wind blew milkweed floss. They were probably Asian in origin. All of them naturalized in the tropics and have found their way in Florida also, may be because of the weather. The Florida Keys have plenty of Asian tropical exotics which have naturalized there over the years. It has to do with the weather and its proximity to other Caribbean islands. Although invasive plants have probably always existed, studies have shown that global warming has triggered their growth substantially.

        1. I do like the thought of plants as ‘pioneers.’ As a matter of fact, I recently came across another which seemed familiar. It’s one you’ve posted about: pink (or coral) porterweed. I didn’t remember where I’d seen it at first, but when I looked it up on the maps and found it listed as native in Florida, it didn’t take long for me to find your post. How it got to a butterfly garden here in the Houston area I can’t say — someone probably got it from the nursery trade. But here it is: not native, but very attractive, and fun to see in real life after reading your post.

          1. Really? I’m glad you saw it and liked it. Butterfly gardens are so much in vogue here, and the weather in South Florida is also a haven for diversity. However, the more one travels northwards, the more this diversity begins to fade, simply because of the change in zones. Zone 8 is at the Florida panhandle, and that one begins to have very unfamiliar plants to me.

    1. I thought it interesting that the little package and its carriers seemed so nicely balanced: the heft of the seed and the volume of the fluff. It’s the sort of thing I never would have noticed in the days before I started photographing, and then pondering the photos.

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