September 2, 2011
A Walk in the Woods: Seeds and Berries
As summer winds down, some plants and trees are setting seed, and broadcasting them in the always precarious bid for new life. My favorite berries in the woods now are the wacky looking White Baneberry, also known, very appropriately, as Doll's Eyes. Their shocking pink stems must catch the eye of any passing bird, and the pure white berries with their strong black dots look like so many goofy eyeballs dangling on the stems. Though edible for birds, the berries are poisonous to humans.
Blackberries thrive along wooded paths and make for a delicious snack when I walk by some canes. This year the dry weather in July and early August prevented a large juicy crop such as last years, when there was constant rain.
The high winds of tropical storm Irene brought down many small branches and gatherings of seeds from trees. I thought that this graceful spray of light bright green elongated pods was very beautiful.
The familiar maple seeds take me back to childhood, when we used to take them apart and stick them on our noses, a sprightly Pinocchio effect.
In one area of my walk are many small round seeds, the new ones green and older fading to a gray-brown. The little spheres look so perfect strewn about the ground, and a little mysterious because of that.
As though to instruct me in the many different types of seed containers, here I found some papery husks, pointed oval in shape, which when opened revealed a single pointed light brown seed.
Though they don't grow in the woods but in open spaces between, I wanted to include milkweed pods in this post because of their compellingly strange appearance. The oblong pods, narrowed at one end and decorated with ranks of raised points, gather together in athletic, dancing groups, bodies swaying and heads nodding. When mature, the pods will open to a burst of shiny silk, which will float the small seeds on air, scattering them to the winds.