Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A desert willow pod releasing its seeds

with 20 comments

Desert Willow Seeds in Split Pods 5487

Click for greater clarity and size.

The desert willow tree, Chilopsis linearis, produces long, narrow pods that are initially green, as you saw last time, but that turn brown when sufficiently dry and split open to release the seeds inside. Notice the seeds’ silky fringes, which with the addition of wind let the seeds land farther from the tree than they otherwise would.

I photographed this desert willow on an August 30 visit to the restored prairie at what used to be Austin’s Mueller Airport.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 3, 2013 at 1:06 PM

20 Responses

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  1. Yet another in what has been a series of truly beautiful shots Steven. D

    Pairodox Farm

    October 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

  2. Interesting. Another example of how nature packs a large number of seeds for dispersal.

    Jim in IA

    October 3, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    • I know that some kinds of seed packing in nature have been studied, for instance the way sunflower kernels are arranged. In that case the Fibonacci numbers appear, but I haven’t run across anything about the organization of seeds in pods. I’ve noticed that the seeds in the pods of a local species of milkweed seem imbricate, which is to say arranged like shingles. There’s much that could be studied here.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 3, 2013 at 7:56 PM

  3. Gorgeous!


    October 3, 2013 at 7:23 PM

  4. Fun! It looks like a weird, hairy caterpillar or stick insect of some sort.


    October 4, 2013 at 4:00 PM

    • Good imagination: now that you’ve mentioned a stick insect, I can see it, even if it’s one of fantasy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 4, 2013 at 4:05 PM

  5. This looks amazingly like my Cape Honeysuckle seeds. When those pods break open and curl away, the seeds are revealed to be attached to an inner structure. It takes a bit of time for them to dry enough to fly away, so it’s easy to run your fingers down the seed “stalk” and collect them.


    October 5, 2013 at 10:34 PM

    • Plant seeds necessarily have their “umbilical cords,” but I wouldn’t have expected the desert willow seeds to be attached in a way that’s similar to a honeysuckle. On the other hand, I’ve come across several cases of what’s called convergent evolution, in which unrelated species develop similar structures, so I shouldn’t be surprised to hear about another one. As for collecting desert willow seeds, I’ve never tried to do that, so I don’t know if it’s as easy as what you described.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 5, 2013 at 11:14 PM

  6. I love the detail and bokeh here.

    M. Firpi

    October 6, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    • I would have preferred to have the background even farther out of focus, but I had to stop down enough to keep all the parts of the split pod in focus.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2013 at 6:17 AM

  7. Yet another great series. I really like the dried phase shot here. By the way, don’t know if your ears were burning today, but in responding to shoreacres, I went to find another example of a Shostakovich piece with a circus theme in it, and what should come up but the course I believe you mentioned–and took. It does look really good, though I’m staying with the free online variety for now.

    Susan Scheid

    October 7, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    • I like this final view more than the green pod that preceded it, but I felt I should show that for the sake of inclusivity (or inclusiveness).

      Fortunately one of the branches of the Austin Public Library has a good bunch of Robert Greenberg’s DVD courses on classical music and musicians, so we’ve been able to watch them for free. We’re currently on an 8-DVD set (that’s 24 hours!) dealing with Beethoven’s nine symphonies. We’re up to the Eroica, which was more than enough to make the ears of early 19th-century listeners burn.

      Steve Schwartzman

      October 7, 2013 at 10:53 PM

      • Agree about inclusion of the green pod. The different stages are each so striking. Fascinating how beautiful the dying stage can be, isn’t it?

        Re the Greenberg DVDs, of course! The library here should have these, too. (Making a mental note . . .) On Beethoven, I am just finishing Jonathan Biss’s course On Exploring the Beethoven Sonatas, demonstrating vividly how Beethoven exploded the sonata form so that, to paraphrase Biss, no one could compose that way (the classical sonata way) anymore.

        Susan Scheid

        October 8, 2013 at 9:26 AM

        • To use a bit of youth slang from the 1950s: end stages are “the living end.”

          The Greenberg course on the Beethoven symphonies conveys the same message. Even in Symphony 2 Beethoven is straining at the boundaries of Classical-era form, and by Symphony 3, of course, he’s out there all by himself in a strange new land of music.

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 8, 2013 at 1:40 PM

  8. Once we began to get some cold snaps, my Cape Honeysuckle seed pods began to ripen and split. I’ve been waiting to find an example that shows a still green pod, splitting pods and one that’s fully open with the seeds visible. Here it is.

    And look at the individual seeds. They’re remarkably like those above. They lack the fringe and seem to have been vacuum-sealed, but they’re about the same size and just as flat. Individual Cape Honeysuckle seeds have two segments, too. Very interesting.


    December 15, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    • Those seeds in your linked picture do seem to fit the convergent evolution we spoke about above, even if it took cold to reveal it in your honeysuckle rather than the heat that did the trick for the desert willow.

      Sometimes I wonder what I’m converging to.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 15, 2013 at 10:48 PM

      • That sound you hear? That would be my mind suddenly making an association. “Convergent evolution” didn’t do it, but your line about wondering what you’re “converging to” did. It made me think of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whom I’ve never read, and Flannery O’Connor, whose short story title never really made sense to me – “Everything That Rises Must Converge”.

        I did a search combining O’Connor and de Chardin and found this, from O’Connor’s letters

        “I’m much taken, though, with Pere Teilhard. I don’t understand the scientific end of it or the philosophical but even when you don’t know those things, the man comes through. He was alive to everything there is to be alive to and in the right way. I’ve even taken a little from him – “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and am going to put it on my next collection of stories …” (The Habit of Being 449).

        So there it is – another path to travel. Thanks!


        December 16, 2013 at 7:42 AM

        • You’re welcome. I’ll confess that when I said I sometimes wonder what I’m converging to I was being a bit flippant, but if that led you to make a connection you wouldn’t otherwise have made, so much the better. Now O’Connor and Chardin have converged in your mind.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 16, 2013 at 9:38 AM

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