Tiny Seeds


Seeds amaze me all the time. This year I've been helping my mom tame an area alongside her pond. After removing tons of stiltgrass, I've been watching to see what comes up naturally from the native seed bank, and then I've been collecting seeds to propagate and return to the site. There's not a wealth of diversity, but so far I've been watching several species trying to get a foothold back in the native soil. Several species of goldenrod, of course, are coming up and are very welcome, but I think they will manage to establish sans any help from me. The ones I have decided to deliberately steward: Asclepias incarnata, Schizachyrium scoparium, Verbena hastata, and Mimulus ringens.

This is the first time I've ever collected seeds from Mimulus ringens. The plants flowered well and had a lots of seedpods forming. I checked some while they were still green, and could tell that each capsule contained many tiny seeds. But I wasn't sure exactly what the mature capsules would look like or how the seeds would naturally be dispersed. Last week, I noticed that a few of the pods had browned, and I wasn't sure when I would next be back, so I harvested some mature-looking pods individually, and then also cut a few stalks with pods in various stages, ranging in color from dull green to tan. I figured I could leave those to dry and see if the seeds could continue to ripen that way. It was a pretty small collection, and I set the entire harvest to dry on top of a grocery bag on my dining room table. After just a few days, I decided to dissect a pods and see what they looked like. But first I wanted to check the ripe pods, to get a better idea of what I was working with. I picked up a capsule, turned it over thinking I was going to have to crush it open, and out they came. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of tiny seeds collecting a small pile. Needless to say I was both delighted and amazed, in part by how easy it was to extract the seeds, but even more so by the simple experience of glimpsing a small part of this species' survival strategy...so many tiny seeds!