poetry and prose about place

autumn black and white

with 8 comments

Roaming around the countryside, the weekend before last, deluged by color from orange and yellow trees and crimson fields of blueberry, I was interested by the contrast in the ditches.  A month ago, they were a riot of yellow or purple as the goldenrods, tansies and asters presented themselves, species by species.  Now, they are done with blooming and are in the business of releasing their seeds. 

To attract pollinators for setting their seeds, flowers put on a competitive display of color and form.  But dispersing their seeds is a different process altogether.  Many depend on the wind to carry their seeds to ideal sites for next year’s bloom and the wind is color-blind.  Grey, white and even black are the dominant colors in the ditches.

Seeds dispersed by wind either flutter to the ground, or float in the air.  Often, they are assisted by a special seed form.  For example, maple keys are flattened and aerodynamic so they spin and travel some distance as they fall.  Seeds of goldenrod and aster have feathery white bristles (called the pappus, a modified sepal) to help them float through the air.   The term pappus comes from the Latin pappus meaning ‘old man’, an apt description of the white heads of the flowers, gone to seed.

Another species in the ditch, Common Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare L.), also known as Golden-buttons, ordinarily has bright yellow flowers in a flat head.  Now, it has joined the black and white revue, showing black seed-heads against feathery leaves.

The seeds of Tansy, in a form called an achene, have no special adaptation for flight.   This time of year, these seeds are dry and ready for dispersal by gravity. 


autumn black


dry leaves



wonder withdrawn, into the vortex of

no hue, no delight

cones suppressed, rods perceive

absence, black seed in heads of Tansy

absorb all light, feathered foliage

 darkest green, approaching black


© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

October 24, 2011 at 6:44 am

8 Responses

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  1. A very informative and lyrical post! I enjoy trying to figure out what some of the brown and white plants are- they appear quite different than the way they looked a couple months back.


    Watching Seasons

    October 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    • Hi. Thanks! I am definately a summer-botanist. When the leaves are missing and the flower parts have turned to fluff, I may as well be looking at a plant from another continent. Jane


      jane tims

      October 28, 2011 at 7:16 am

  2. As I was reading your lyrical words an old James Taylor song started going through my head…
    “Seeds of the universe ever endeavor to grow
    Tiny pieces of everything into the water they go”
    (Yellow & Rose)


    Barbara Rodgers

    October 25, 2011 at 1:57 pm

    • James Taylor is the best. I’m heading off to find the rest of the words to their song. Jane


      jane tims

      October 25, 2011 at 8:45 pm

  3. I just love your posts Jane. Botany lessons, photographs, poetry, and sketches all together are a beautiful marriage and you are so good at each.


    C.L. Sostarich

    October 24, 2011 at 7:06 am

  4. This is fantastic. The pictures, although lovely are completely un-necessary, the text provides more scene with more imagery than an actual image ever could.



    October 24, 2011 at 6:55 am

    • Hi. Thanks for the comment. I’m pleased you think my writing can stand alone. Jane


      jane tims

      October 24, 2011 at 7:20 am

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