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.

2

Lesser burdock Arctium minus

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

3

Teasel Dipsacus fullonum

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

4

Traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba

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

5

Goat’s-beard Tragopogon pratensis

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

6

Common mallow Malva sylvestris

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

7

Meadow cranesbill Geranium pratense

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

8

Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria

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

9

Bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus

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

10

Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera

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

11

Wood avens Geum urbanum

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

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.