Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Camphorweed Chaos

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Seeds caught on drying flowers of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris; click for more detail.

Yesterday’s post showed a fully open flower head of camphorweed, Heterotheca subaxillaris, on the prairie site of Austin’s former Mueller Airport. Call that the idealized camphorweed picture.

Within a few feet of that bright and well-behaved day’s eyedaisy to us now—was the miniature landscape you see today. This is more typical of what’s out there in nature: chaos. Failure mixes with success. The two flower heads in the center are drying out—notice their tightly curling rays—perhaps without ever turning into the tan puffballs that are normally their next incarnation. Chalk it up to the drought, and no one will argue with you. As is true for most plants, this one has spiderwebs on it, spiderwebs that collect debris, dust, stray objects blown by the wind. Now add the stickiness of camphorweed itself. Result: parachuted seeds trapped in places where they do no good. Do you see five of them? Let’s count:

•  the long, dark seed at the bottom, a bit left of center;
•  the one resting on its side on the rim of the narrower flower head;
•  the one stuck to the bulging base of that flower head;
•  the one at the top of the picture, a bit left of center;
•  the one stuck to a stem in the upper right.

Will any of these seeds ever make it into the prairie soil and begin to grow? If not these, then others, because dozens of camphorweed plants had sprung up around the place where I sat. But all, they and any descendants whose seeds don’t blow far enough away, are still doomed, for this part of the old airport is scheduled to be built on.

© 2011 Steven Schwartzman

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