Friday, October 24, 2014

Hard Frost and Milkweed Seeds (23 OCT 2014)

Six times this month the overnight temperature has dropped down below freezing.  Wednesday night the temperature reached down to 28 degrees Fahrenheit (the third time it has reached this low for the month).  When I got to work, the field behind the office was covered with a heavy layer of frost. 

The Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) plants have dropped all of their leaves.  Their seedpods split open releasing the ripe seeds inside.  The field is covered with milkweed seeds and their fluffy parachutes.

The frost covered seeds spent the morning waiting for a breeze to carry them to a new home.

Most of the seeds never make it beyond the field - they snag on plants and other objects along the way.

Even if their silken parachute only carries them a few feet from their parent plant it has done its job of dispersal.   In this way, the parent plant reduces competition from its own offspring and those seeds that do make it further than a few feet become explores capable of colonizing new fields, expanding the species to the physical limits of its range.

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