Wednesday, October 6, 2010


October is a peak time for seed of prairie wildflowers and grasses to mature. I mentioned earlier that I could see a lot of seeds being produced and that is still the case. The various blazing star species appear ready to release copious amounts of seed.

It’s not the total amount of seed that matters. It’s the amount of viable seed that is important. Viable seed is that which is packed with enough energy to survive until optimum growing conditions arrive and nourish a young seedling to the point where it can grow on its own. A cross section of this blazing star seed head shows the seeds to be empty husks. Very few seeds actually develop into a new plant, so with the exception of annual plants, loss of the seed crop does not much impact the total plant population. The damage is felt by the multitude of animals that depend on the seeds as a source of food.

Purple Coneflower seed heads look to contain several seeds. A sign of trouble is the fact that the seed heads haven’t already been torn apart by the finches.

The Coneflower seeds are much reduced in size and only a few have any living material inside the seed coat. The birds aren’t going to bother foraging where there’s so little of value to find.

Milkweed bugs usually cover the pods of the Butterfly Weed, but none are to be found this year. The small shriveled seeds contain nothing inside upon which the bugs can feed.

The Bundleflower seems packed with seeds. These plants always produce high volumes of nutritional seeds.

The number of Bundleflower seeds is normal, but the quality is down. Every seed appears sunken in the center. This is what ten weeks without rain does to a seed crop. It doesn’t matter how drought tolerant a plant is, it still needs moisture to produce a seed. Our 2010 drought lasted too long and spanned the critical seed producing time for most plants at Blue Jay Barrens.

The Indian Grass produced nice, full seed heads. Last year the sparrows spent months in the fields feeding on Indian Grass seeds.

In the areas I checked, I found only one seed for every ten florets on the Indian Grass seed head. That’s a 90 percent reduction in seed production for the plant that produces the majority of seed in the field. With so many plants failing to produce seed, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be a good year for the birds at Blue Jay Barrens.


  1. Very interesting. I enjoy and appreciate my daily science lesson here.

  2. Hi Steve...I have always found seed heads very interesting to checkout ...texture shapes and all!!
    We seem to have alot of grasses that have great seed head this year can't name then though!!
    Milkweed seems to have alot of those Aphids you posted about...and they haven't opened yet!!

  3. Thanks, Lois.

    grammie g - When I begin collecting seed, I'll take some pictures of the various animals that live inside seed heads. You would be surprised at how many spiders and insects you can find. Just remember when you see my next seed post that it may be a little bit buggy.

  4. Stunning photos. I am missing fall in Ohio intensely. I suppose the Georgia coast has signs of fall all its own, but having only been here a month and a half I'm not really attuned to the seasons here, not like I was in the state I grew up in.

  5. Hi, Rebecca. We're having what I call a crunchy fall. Yard, field, woods and anywhere else you step causes some plantlife to crunch. It's very noisy.