Seed dispersal with gusto

Some plants passively count on wind, creatures, or water for seed dispersal. Other plants attack seed dispersal with gusto, creating a type of seed pod firework display.

The video below shows seed dispersal with gusto, a process I’ve observed this many times in my Connecticut gardens.

Unfortunately, the video only refers to the plants by common name – violets, touch-me-nots, squirting cucumbers. Searching for information using only common plant names can lead to confusion as common names may vary from gardener to gardener and region to region. For anyone looking to add featured plants to their garden, the addition of botanical names would have been helpful.

In Connecticut, touch-me-nots are also called jewelweed. The Connecticut Botanical Society (CBS) lists two native species: jewelweed or spotted touch-me-not is Impatiens capensis, while pale touch-me-not or pale jewelweed is Impatiens pallida.

white violets

white violets-a CT native using seed dispersal with gusto

CBS also lists many species of violets, most in the Viola family such as the common blue violet (Viola sororia) and small white or northern white violet (Viola pallens). By contrast, CBS does not list poisonous-when-ingested squirting cucumbers (Ecballium elaterium), native to Mediterranean regions.

Seed dispersal with gusto is a fun phenomenon for desired plants. In my landscape, common blue violets add interest and color to the lawn, where I encourage their spread, and where they attract some of the earliest emerging pollinators. But the same blue violets require annual control in perennial beds to prevent them from taking over.

Two of Connecticut’s weedy invasives hairy bitter-cress (Cardamine hirsuta) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) need only a slight touch to blast mature seeds in all directions, making them formidable weed pests. Hairy bitter-cress blooms during very early spring going from flower to mature seed in just a few days, and re-blooms late-summer to fall from these broadcast seeds. If not caught before narrow seed pods dry, plant removal is impossible without spreading seeds. Garlic mustard is similarly robust in seed dispersal.

Informed gardeners can use seed dispersal knowledge to their advantage by allowing desired perennials to go to seed, or preventing unwanted weeds or perennials from doing the same.

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December warmth, confused plants

Yesterday I wandered around outside to see how plantings are reacting to the December warmth blanketing Connecticut. December has been unusually warm; yesterday’s daytime temperature reached the low 60’s, today’s is forecast to possibly reach 70 degrees F. The soil remains workable, plants are confused.

lilac buds swelling in Connecticut's December 2015 warmth

lilac buds swelling in Connecticut’s December 2015 warmth

Though no spring-blooming bulbs are peeking out of the ground, lilac buds are greening and swelling as if preparing to open.

Leaf tips on the young serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis ‘Rainbow Pillar’) tree show hints of opening.

leatherleaf viburnum, December 2015

leatherleaf viburnum, December 2015


Leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) leaves are still fresh and full, holding a spring-green hue rather than the darker green they take on during winter’s cold.

swelling buds of star magnolia, December 2015

swelling buds of star magnolia, December 2015

swelled bud of star magnolia, December 2015

swelled bud of star magnolia, December 2015


Buds of the star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) have likewise swelled, looking more like they should in early spring than early winter.

And this December warmth has enticed area cherry trees into bloom. It’s very strange to see a pink cherry tree in December in Connecticut.




Perennials are also confused …

fresh daylily growth, December 2015

fresh daylily growth, December 2015

Fresh daylily leaves are peeking through the leftover, browned foliage of this year’s growth.


early winter, 2015, scabiosa bloom

early winter, 2015, scabiosa bloom






And, this type-a personality scabiosa is still forcing out fresh blooms.

How will all this December warmth affect future blooms? The clocks of the perennials will reset once real winter weather blows in, but bud and leaf tip swelling of spring-blooming shrubs and small trees is disturbing.

Will the small flowers hiding inside these buds become damaged by this false start once cold temperatures hit? Many early spring-blooming shrubs form next season’s flowers before going into dormancy. Flower buds can be damaged when rapid temperature drops follow early warm weather that entices early-blooming shrubs to break dormancy.

The December warmth of the last few days is forecast to turn to more normal temperatures early next week. I’m hoping for a gradual cool-down, and cold that lasts until March. This gives perennials, shrubs, and trees the chance to rest before the spring awakening. But, if early spring flowers are sparse in 2016, I will think back to this December warmth and my confused plants.


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