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.


  1. I love milkweed, flowers, pods and the lovely seed wings.

    Thanks for the visit yesterday in the studio; getting paintings ready to show is an exercise of patience and craft. Next week some new work can be born in the cleared out space. Come again.

  2. Those enlongated seeds are ash tree seeds. I have them by the millions on my patio. It is amazing how many seeds one tree produces. They pierce any leaf that is in their way on the way to the garden floor. Amazing since they look so delicate. I could have an Ash grove if I left them growing where they fall. I have never seen bane berries before. Only in photos. They are sweet staring back at you. Have a great weekend.

  3. Oh, wonderful. It's been a fruitful season this year, hasn't it? Some id's -- the third one down, the long winged seeds, are from White Ash. The trees are male and female, so some are loaded and some are empty. (Near wet places we also have Black Ash, but it's less common. The seeds are very like.)
    Then the fifth photo is of Basswood seeds, which have that odd wing and stem out of the middle. The wing is a bract. Somewhere near there you can look up and see the really big heart-shaped leaves of the Basswood, or American Linden.
    The little papery-covered ones are probably from a Hop Hornbeam tree, also called Ironwood or Leverwood. Look for a not-large tree with birchy leaves and distinctive bark, in fine vertical strips, a bit corky-flaky.
    I so love those shapes of the unopened milkweed pods! They are like nothing else. A nice tour!

  4. Glad you like the post, Maggie, and it was lovely to visit your studio.
    Thanks so much for the IDs and comments, Lisa and Susan. I have a white ash tree in my backyard but haven't seen any seeds from it. And it's good to know about basswood and ironwood. I love all those different shapes.

  5. Thank you for this nice little stroll. Such excitement in the woods and fields as the seasons change!

  6. So does anyone know the name of the 5th one? (the one with little round seed pods?) I picked some off a tree just like these several years ago in Phoenix AZ. Planted the seeds here in NM and I have a couple of tall trees. This is the third year now and this year the trees had the most beautiful smelling small light purple flowers in clusters in the spring, and this fall is the first year I found seed pods on them. A year ago I took its leaves to county extension office and they could NOT identify them! Saving more seeds now in hopes that someone wants some!

    1. If you had read the comments, Anon, you would have seen that Susan Sawyer identified those round seeds as Basswood, or American Linden.