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Thimbleweed Seeds Dispersing

11-9-15 thimbleweed 087Often Thimbleweed (Anemone virginiana) is overlooked when its white flowers are blooming during the summer, but its seed head is rarely missed in the fall. When flowering, stamens surround a green cone that elongates into a cylindrical fruit twice as long as it is wide, giving this member of the Buttercup family its name. The seeds mature in the fall, and the style, part of the female reproductive structure that remains attached to the developing seed, develops a woolly texture, turning the “thimble” into a ball of fluff. A close look reveals that this “cottonball” consists of many tiny dark seeds, each of which bears a cottony tuft to enhance its dispersal by the wind.

Thimbleweed produces chemicals which inhibit seed germination and seedling growth in many species of plants, so often the ground is relatively bare around this plant. Mammalian herbivores usually leave Thimbleweed alone because the foliage contains a blistering agent that can irritate the mouth parts and digestive tract.

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6 responses

  1. Penny

    Is it an “alien” plant or indigenous? If nobody eats it and it is poisonous to other plants, should we pull it up?

    November 19, 2015 at 8:45 am

    • It’s native, Penny, and provides abundant pollen for small bees and Syrphid flies!

      November 19, 2015 at 9:31 am

  2. Reblogged this on botanicalhappenings and commented:
    I am interested in knowing if this sweet wildflower is deer-resistant and able to hold its ground against Japanese stilt grass – two major threats to our local ecosystems.

    November 19, 2015 at 10:53 am

    • Hi botanical happenings,
      I’m afraid someone more knowledgeable than I will have to let you know about deer and Japanese stilt grass, as I honestly don’t know. So sorry.

      November 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm

  3. Kathie Fiveash

    I have a big stand of anemone canadensis in my yard. Does virginiana also groe in great clumps like that, or is it solitary? Rare or common? Woodlands or fields? I can’t remember seeing it.

    November 19, 2015 at 11:48 am

    • Hi Kathie,
      Although virginiana does reproduce vegetatively from the roots, I seldom see more than 1 – 3 plants in one spot, and I’ve always found it in wooded areas.

      November 19, 2015 at 1:51 pm

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