Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Snailseed redux: a portrait in red and green

with 30 comments

Snailseed Fruit Cluster and Leaf 7319

In contrast to the distant bridge-bright view of snailseed, Cocculus carolinus, that you saw in these pages last month, here’s a simultaneously light and shadowy closeup of this vine’s fruit and leaves from the greenbelt north of Spicewood Springs Rd. on October 10.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 21, 2015 at 4:43 AM

30 Responses

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  1. what fruit is that


    October 21, 2015 at 4:49 AM

  2. “Snailseed” finally caught my attention, and I went looking. What amazing little bits of potential life those seeds are. While they do resemble living snails, they’re even more like the fossilized snails I’ve seen in limestone.

    I think this is one of the vines I recently encountered; it has both the fruit and the heart-shaped leaves, and it seems, from one of my photos, that I may even have captured a seed or two. I’ll go back and look more closely.

    I’m amazed by the number of plants bearing berries just now: even goldenrod and palmetto have them. Some I can identify, but most I can’t. Learning how to search online is its own challenge. I’ve found that a search for “red berries” isn’t particularly fruitful, but combining “red berries,” “vine,” “Texas,” and “heart-shaped leaf” occasionally hits the mark.


    October 21, 2015 at 6:18 AM

    • Another name for this is moonseed, so apparently some people saw (and some may still see) the tiny seeds as miniature moons. It wouldn’t surprise me that you’ve run across this vine, given that it’s common in Texas and across the Southeast:


      (A speaker at the Native Plant Society of Texas symposium said that the BONAP maps are more accurate than those of the USDA.)

      One clarification: I don’t think you meant to say goldenrod, because plants in the sunflower family don’t produce berries.

      And yes, I’d say we all sometimes have trouble searching the Internet in a way that gets us what we want without a lot of unintended hits. Did you know that you can search negatively as well as positively? Putting a minus sign in front of a search term (don’t leave a space) excludes hits containing that term.

      Here’s an explanation of other Google search operators:


      Steve Schwartzman

      October 21, 2015 at 6:46 AM

      • I did mean to say goldenrod, but apparently I was fooled by a plant as well as a butterfly. I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t find any reference to goldenrod berries, and the fact that they don’t produce them would explain it.

        Now, I have to figure out what this is. It looked for all the world like goldenrod, with big, showy plumes of yellow flowers that were covered with bees and wasps, just like the real thing. But “looks like” isn’t the same as “is.” The good news is that I know approximately where the plant was, and I ought to be able to find it again for a better look at those flowers. Even in their blurriness, I can see this morning that they’re not quite the same as goldenrod flowers.

        Learning to look can be harder than learning to search the internet, that’s for sure. Thanks for the link and the search tips. I’ll put them to good use.


        October 21, 2015 at 7:19 AM

        • Now I’m more confused than ever. Here’s a view of a complete plant in the group where I found the berry cluster, and here’s a closeup showing more of what appear to be berries. Since the berries clearly are growing on stems from the plant, they’re not galls or something like that. So, it seems there are only two choices. Either this isn’t goldenrod, or some goldenrod has berries. This is really interesting.


          October 21, 2015 at 7:42 AM

          • The plant certainly looks like goldenrod, no doubt about that.

            Steve Schwartzman

            October 21, 2015 at 7:57 AM

            • I seem to have solved the mystery. I finally used the term “fruit” while searching, and turned up Solidago sempervirens L., aka Seaside goldenrod, or Salt-marsh goldenrod. Once I had that, I found more information.

              First, I found an abstract of an article published in the Canadian Journal of Botany: “This study examined the seed ecology of seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens L., a gap species, on coastal dunes dominated by American beachgrass, Ammophila breviligulata.

              Next, an article from the University of Florida affirmed that “Seaside goldenrod is a prolific seeder. Consequently, new seedlings will appear in nearby areas of the landscape…”

              Then, I found an article in a USDA plant guide describing the leaves and stems perfectly, as well as the flowers. There also was this: “The fruit of the seaside goldenrod is a capsule with a pappus in a single circle of bristles. The seeds require no cold stratification for germination. When buried, seed viability decreases after the first year in both disturbed and undisturbed areas (Lee, 1993). Therefore, seaside goldenrod does not appear to have a
              persistent seed bank.”

              And, from the same article: “Seaside goldenrod produced 75 lb/ac of seed (first year of establishment) to 220 lb/acof seed (2 years after establishment) … There are approximately 700,000 seeds/lb.”

              At that point, I landed in a place I’d never been: the Wildflower Center seed bank. Lo and behold, there’s a collection sheet for Solidago sempervirens L. What’s even more amazing is that the seeds were collected in Brazoria County, in Angleton, at an intersection I know.

              So that’s my report on the seeds of Seaside goldenrod. What a trip!


              October 24, 2015 at 8:45 PM

              • That is a lot of work. After you suggested Solidago sempervirens, I searched for that species and got plenty of hits. I looked at a bunch that included photographs, but I couldn’t find any that included a cluster of “berries” like the ones on the specimens you photographed. The closest I came was the first picture at


                and at


                I’d feel better about the identification if I could find one photograph somewhere that looks more like yours.

                By the way, the collection sheet you linked to identifies the collector as Minnette Marr, who I happened to sit next to and talk with at one of the sessions in the Native Plant symposium last weekend.

                Steve Schwartzman

                October 24, 2015 at 9:22 PM

                • One of the sites I can’t find now mentioned that each fruit had one seed. I distinctly remember that, because I wondered if they would be considered drupes, or drupelets. In any event, I’ll let it rest for a bit, and then try to surface that page. I keep going back and forth on it all. What I need to do is get myself back over there and try and find the stand of plants again, and get some better photos.


                  October 24, 2015 at 9:39 PM

                • I also remember seeing a reference to one seed per fruit. It would be very helpful if you could get back to the plants and see how they’ve developed. Changes that have occurred since your last visit might offer the evidence you need. In particular, what has become of the “berries”?

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 24, 2015 at 10:08 PM

                • I contacted Minnette. I’m going to back up and start over.


                  October 24, 2015 at 9:55 PM

                • I’ll have to go to the shore and look for this next year. Did you note (Steve) that an alternate name is S. mexicana?
                  Nice sleuthing, Linda.

                  Steve Gingold

                  October 26, 2015 at 4:22 PM

                • Good luck finding Solidago sempervirens on a shore (relatively) near you. No, I hadn’t noticed the alternate name S. mexicana, but it seems appropriate, given that the species has a distribution that covers a couple of thousand miles of coastline.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  October 26, 2015 at 5:37 PM

        • One way you might identify your mystery plant is to join the NPSOT-NPAT mailing e-list at Yahoo!:


          From time to time people in Texas submit photographs of plants they can’t identify, and usually at least one subscriber, some of whom are quite knowledgeable, can tell what the plant is (or at least could be). I thought about it because there were two identifications in the email digest I received this morning.

          Although your photo shows what look like little fruits, I’m wondering if they might be buds. The stalk that they’re on is similar to the stalk with flowers, and I see bits of yellow on the little green orbs (assuming the yellow didn’t fall from the flowers).

          Steve Schwartzman

          October 21, 2015 at 7:47 AM

          • All signed up with the Yahoo group. Thanks.


            October 21, 2015 at 7:54 AM

            • Each morning I get one digest e-mail that includes all postings from the previous day (assuming there have been any). Alternatively, you can choose to get an e-mail containing each new posting right after it’s posted. If you submit your photographs, you’d do better with that second option so you don’t have to wait till the morning. Either way, you can go to the website at any time to see the latest postings.

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 21, 2015 at 8:02 AM

              • That sure does look like goldenrod to me too. I searched for goldenrod galls, but they don’t look anything like these. It will be interesting to find out what they are.

                Steve Gingold

                October 23, 2015 at 2:16 PM

                • I tucked this here so Steve G. would get the note, too. I’ve gotten three responses to my inquiry. One guy wasn’t sure what they were, but two said goldenrod galls, and one provided this link to images of galls. The two photos on the far right seem to match the ones I found, although they were collected in Pennsylvania. The reddish ones on the left were collected in Massachusetts. One of the pages adds this note: “This species [Schizomyia racemicola] modifies goldenrod (Solidago) florets to create short-pointed, green to red, smooth, onion-shaped galls. The orange larvae leave the galls to pupate in the ground.”

                  Obviously, appearances can be deceiving. Just because it looks like a berry doesn’t mean it is a berry: etc. etc. I learned a lot of lessons with this one.

                  What tickled me most was a request for the latitude and longitude of my specimen. That’s a long, long way from “Oh, look at the pretty yellow flowers!”


                  November 3, 2015 at 10:59 PM

                • Who’d have guessed galls? As I’ve said so many times: live and learn. BugGuide seems to offer the most online information about galls of this general type, but in searching for Schizomyia racemicola I found more pictures of galls in a book.

                  I’m glad you finally solved your mystery.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 4, 2015 at 5:44 AM

                • I am confused by this not showing up in my Google search for goldenrod galls earlier. But I am glad that you have got a good identification. I guess that Steve missed my guess.

                  Steve Gingold

                  November 5, 2015 at 6:19 PM

                • I didn’t miss your guess, but I thought that after you searched and didn’t find anything appropriate you’d given up on the idea of galls. I’ve never seen galls in a cluster like that, but now I’ll be on the lookout.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 5, 2015 at 9:08 PM

                • As will I. There is always lots of somethings new to find out there.

                  Steve Gingold

                  November 6, 2015 at 3:41 AM

                • That there is, and so we keep going out looking.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  November 6, 2015 at 6:31 AM

            • Have you submitted a picture of your plant to the Yahoo! group?

              Steve Schwartzman

              October 23, 2015 at 3:11 PM

              • No, because I’ve got an ID for the goldenrod and for the not-partridge-pea. I’ll add the details tomorrow — too late, now.


                October 23, 2015 at 10:28 PM

  3. Quite lovely image and plant. At first the berries reminded my of barberry, but no thorns and the leaves are much larger…and it’s a vine.

    Steve Gingold

    October 23, 2015 at 2:18 PM

  4. […] A common vine in central Texas is Cocculus carolinus, known as Carolina snailseed, Carolina moonseed, and Carolina coralbead. Here from July 12th along Bull Creek you get a close look at the vine’s flowers and a somewhat farther-back view of unripe fruit. One website calls the tiny blossoms “insignificant,” but they’re obviously not that to the humble snailseed, which manages to keep propagating itself just fine, thank you. The little fruits turn red as they mature. […]

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