Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Seeds and moths

Seeds are the primary propagation method for many species of plants, and any species has a better chance of survival if its progeny can be distributed as widely as possible. Some seeds, e.g. Sycamore, Thistle and Dandelion, can fly. Others, such as Cleavers, Burdock or Herb Benedict have seeds which are furnished with hooks so that they can hitch a ride to their eventual germination spot. Other plants, however, have seeds which are distributed in more bizarre fashion.

The seeds of Meadowsweet are arranged in tightly coiled balls:

Meadowsweet seeds
When the seeds are mature, they drop off and bounce and roll away to their eventual destination.

The champions of subterfuge, though, are the seeds of Cow Parsley (and other Umbellifers, such as Hogweed). These resemble beetles:

Seeds of Cow Parsley
Notice that the similarity extends to antennae and even to 'eyes'.

When a fast-flying insect-eating bird spots these seeds, it is very easy to mistake them for a beetle at the top of a plant. As a result, many of these seeds are picked up and carried for some distance before the bird has noticed that its juicy beetle dinner is, in fact, a seed. If you're an insectivore, the last thing you want to eat is a seed, so these are very quickly dropped to germinate, but not before they have been carried some distance from the parent plant. Plants 1: Birds 0.

Moth identification continues to vex me, but I do think I'm beginning to make some headway.

This is the second specimen of Dotted Clay that I have seen:

Dotted Clay moth
These have a fairly short season, and the first one I saw was on 1st August 2009: exactly 3 years ago to the day. Dotted Clay uses a wide range of herbaceous foodplants, preferring Nettle and (in winter) Willows and other trees.

As usual, this Pug took a little time to identify:

Double-striped Pug
Larvae of the Double-striped Pug can be found on almost any flower. (Pug larvae tend to eat flowers, rather than leaves).


Denise said...

A first class nature post and wonderful photos.

Toffeeapple said...

I always struggle with moth id. Those seed heads are amazing aren't they? They look almost edible, like Nasturtium seeds.