Thursday, October 21, 2010

Onosmodium Seeds

The drought has certainly stripped the color from the prairie landscape at Blue Jay Barrens. We’ve only had the one light frost, so I would normally expect to see masses of asters and the tall grass glowing a bright golden color. What I see is a total lack of flowers and the grass looking more like dirty straw. There is one plant, a favorite that I’ve talked about before, that is still showing green and adding interest to the prairie landscape. That plant is False Gromwell, Onosmodium molle var. hispidissimum.

These plants don’t even look like they’re aware of the ongoing drought. Maybe all those hairs do help minimize water loss from the leaves. The leaves are still full and green. The veins sit in deep furrows that add an interesting depth and texture to the leaf. I always enjoy looking at this plant.

Another plus is the bounty of seed produced. I’m increasingly discouraged by the number of plants that didn’t produce any viable seed this year. The Onosmodium produced a bountiful crop of showy seeds.

The seeds are like hard little nuts. I’ve known them to stay on the plant for the entire winter, so I’m not sure whether or not anything finds them edible. They’re extremely easy to germinate if planted shallowly in the fall. They need to experience the full effects of winter before breaking dormancy. Even if nothing eats the seeds, the foliage is favored by a wide variety of insect species.

Shape and texture of the seeds are a defining character is the genus. This species has a smooth surface covered by randomly spaced pits. The flared out collar is also an identifying trait. These seeds are such attractive little things that I can forgive their apparent inedibility.


  1. Hi Steve... It is amazing how there are plants that just seem to go on like "what wrong with those plants around me"!!
    Are there plants who can store moisture in the roots or stems some how??
    Those are attractive little seeds ..I would probably bring them inside and use them in some decoration but it would be just my luck that it would be host to some large spiders eggs or something like that!! : { frights!!

  2. Hi, grammie g. This plant has a pretty stout root system that's capable of storing a bit of water. It's also very stingy about letting any moisture out through the leaf pores.

    I've never known anything to be in the seeds besides baby plants, so I think you'd be safe to have them in the house.