Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Fall Fluff

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) seed pods
High Bush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Leaves turning color on sassafras, blueberry, red maple, fothergilla, and oak-leaf hydrangea have made brilliant fall colors this season.  The meadow looks wonderfully disheveled and fertile with seed.

The moleskin pods of butterfly weed have wrinkled, dried and split to release their contents.  Dark brown seeds attached to a fluffy parachute spill out and accumulate around the pods, until a breeze teases them away for their journey to another fertile place. As I collect a few seeds for propagation, the fluff feels incredibly soft and I can imagine making a down pillow out of it. But I leave most of them hoping to perpetuate this plant, which is a larval host for Monarch butterflies. 

Little Bluestem (Schizachryium scoparium)
Multicolored stems of little bluestem catch the sunlight in their fluffy seeds. This native grass turns all gold and provides winter interest and habitat in my garden. The larvae of several species of skipper butterflies use this plant as a food source. 

Maryland Goldenaster (Chrysopsis mariana)
Hyssop-leaved boneset (Eupatorium hyssopifolium)
Maryland Golden Aster makes decorative golden pompoms of seeds. Another good reason to let them be in winter is the birds like to peck at them for food. A red maple leaf rests on the fluffy seed heads of hyssop-leaved boneset. Birds in the winter garden will eat these seeds. In summer the white blooms of this plant attract native pollinators and predators of the marmorated stink bug, which is becoming a major pest in agriculture.