How to identify autumn seeds

Many late-summer flowers are now in seed. We have illustrated 12 distinctive forms to look for this October. 

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All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole 

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1 Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense (above)

Produces white, feathery seeds, or thistledown. Before dispersal each tight seed head is known as a pappus.

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2 Lesser burdock Arctium minus

Relative of thistles that bears stiff, prickly, hooked seeds, which disperse by clinging to fur.

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3 Teasel Dipsacus fullonum

Tall, thistle-like herb that produces fruiting heads protected by spikes, once used to tease out wool fibres.

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4 Traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba

Hedgerow climber that bears seeds on pale grey, wispy tendrils, hence its alternative name of old man’s beard.

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5 Goat’s-beard Tragopogon pratensis

Member of dandelion family that produces a spherical ‘clock’, each containing many fluffy seed heads.

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6 Common mallow Malva sylvestris

Wayside plant that bears seeds inside capsules shaped like cheeses, hence their old name of pick-cheeses.

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7 Meadow cranesbill Geranium pratense

Wayside plant that encloses its seeds in pointed pods shaped like beaks. When ripe, they explode at a touch.

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8 Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria

Tall grassland flower that bears burs on long spikes; these can be ‘unzipped’ by pulling upwards.

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9 Bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus

Member of the clover family with splayed pointed seed pods in the shape of a bird’s foot.

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10 Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera

Invasive, damp-loving plant from the Far East. Its seed pods explode at a touch when ripe.

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11 Wood avens Geum urbanum

Hooked seeds designed to attach to the fur of passing animals. When bur dries out, those left fall to the ground.

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12 Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium

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Large relative of cow parsley with round, ribbed seeds that cling to the dried umbrellas of the parent plant.