Plant Travelers

Fruit and seeds found in SFBG
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    Found throughout the garden mostly weedy Dandelion Each seed is attached to a parachute and travels like a helicopter, traveling long distances by wind. Crane’s bill  Seeds are carried on fur or clothing. Each seed has a long tail which curls into a spiral after exploding from the fruit. False strawberry The red strawberry-like fruit attracts birds (and children!). The birds eat them and the tiny seeds travel quite rapidly through the bird’s “gut”, being dispersed randomly as the bird flies. Note: though the fruits are very similar, the flowers are yellow, not white like those of Fragaria Chiloensis. Impatiens Fruit develops into exploding capsules which burst when the buildup of water pressure in the ovary wall causes it to break. Touching the pod (ovary) can cause ready-to-explode pods to shoot the seeds away. Forget-me-not The sepals containing the seeds develop hooked hairs which fasten to fur or clothes, thus traveling by hitchhiking. Eucalyptus The flowers are “many stamened” followed by tough, woody capsules covered by caps which pop off when seeds are ripe exposing four symmetrical, small holes through which seeds shake out. They are spread by gravity and wind. Monterey Pine This is a coastal pine with dark green needles in bundles of three. It is one of the closed-cone pines, keeping its cones for many years, even though the seeds are ripe in two years. Large female cones could open with great age, but most often they open from heat of a forest. The seeds are tiny and light surrounded by wings enabling them to travel by wind. From around the world Holly This plant has red berries attracting birds. Even though the seed is poisonous, it is eaten and travels through the bird’s gut very rapidly. Only the fleshy part is digested, not the hard seed which is “pooped out” as the bird flies.  New Zealand flax This plant of tall strap leaves produces inflorescences in late summer, and later capsules of flat black seeds which travel by the wind. Columbine The seeds form in capsules which spread the seeds like a salt shaker as the wind blows.    Youth Education Program of San Francisco Botanical Garden Society Plant Travelers Seeds in the Garden    Plant Travelers Seeds in the Garden 2 Cuphea Look for flowers on the ground or the ones on the lower part of the plant. Tear off the tube-like petal; you will find a capsule of seeds. Dead flowers travel by hitchhiking. Cassia A member of the pea family forming pods (like beans) that split open when ripe. Travels by gravity. A shrub that almost always has buds, flowers and fruit accessible. Fuchsias Has flowers most of the time as well as berries which attract birds. Salvia Seeds are found in the capsule formed by the sepals. These travel by gravity, the entire flower falls, breaking down in the soil. Sages or salvias in the native section form little nutlets which are shaken from the sepal cups. They become sticky when wet, then float or stick to animal fur. The seeds are considered nutritious. Linden or Basswood Flowers, and then after pollination, the seeds are on a flattened peduncle (stem) which is carried away from the plant by the wind. English Walnut Seeds (nuts) are dispersed by animals (people and squirrels). Native plants Cow Parsnip Fruits contain two thin wafer-like halves, each containing one seed. Each half is winged traveling a short distance from the mother plant by the wind. Evening primrose The plant has yellow flowers on the top of a three foot stalk. Lower down on the stalk develop capsules, or mature ovaries, containing seed which rattle and shake when the wind blows causing a salt shaker-like dispersal. Seaside daisy Even the flowering disc flowers show a fuzzy, hairy pappus on top of each tiny ovary. These ovaries enlarge with one seed inside, allowing seeds to float a long distance along the shoreline by the wind.  Wild Iris Late in the summer or early fall a three-sided capsule forms with seeds that the wind shakes out. The seeds are round so they can roll away. Buckeye Not all flowers in the candle-like inflorescences get pollinated. However, there are usually one or two that do, forming buckeyes that are round. They fall by gravity then roll, especially on a hill. It’s called buckeye because it has the appearance of a la rge eye when it begins to split open. Manzanita Berries are red when ripe resembling tiny apples (the meaning of the common name in Spanish). The berries are favorite food for bears and other animals. The hard seeds need to pass through gastric and intestinal digestion, or can be cracked by fire, to become viable.  Plant Travelers Seeds in the Garden 3 Milkweed After pollination large pods form in the fall splitting along one seam to reveal hundreds of flat seeds covered with long fluffy hairs which enable them to travel by wind. Lack of proper pollinators results in poor seed set. Skunk Cabbage All parts of this plant are poisonous when raw. Fruits ripen late in the fall, each ovary making a fleshy berry. The whole stalk falls over into the mud assuring self-planting of many new plantlets. Bleeding heart A perennial herb spreading vegetatively by rhizomes. The flowers form capsules which split exposing blackish seeds, each topped with a spongy whitish oil body. The ants seek these seeds and carry them away, nibbling the oil body, and discard the rest of the seed. Other plants that can be used for the Plant Travelers walk Hop bush –  wings buoy fruit in the wind Maple –  The Big Leaf Maple, best for samaras Cotoneaster –  red berries Squirting cucumber –  seeds shoot Mahonia –  blue berries –  birds Madrone –  red berries –  birds Rose –  Rose hips –  birds Huckleberry –  blue berries –  birds Lupine –  pods twisting, shooting seeds Dawn redwood –  cones under trees with seeds that can be shaken out California poppy –  pod explodes List srcinally compiled by Carol Barnes, SFBGS docent
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