Seeing Seeds

Late-season seeds provide yet another reason to admire plants. Master gardener Paul James discusses a few of his favorites.
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It's no wonder people are drawn to plants. After all, they have so many redeeming qualities, including flowers and foliage, texture, shape and fragrance. "But one of the most often overlooked qualities can, in my opinion, be one of the most redeeming of all, especially late in the season — and that's seeds," says master gardener Paul James.

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Among the more familiar are the seedpods of the redbud, seen here, which hang in clusters on mature trees and rattle in the wind. Dogwoods produce brilliant red berries or seeds that combine well with the foliage and provide a source of food for birds.

Even the hackberry can put on quite a show of seeds, which is yet another reason growers should make this tree readily available.

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And let's not forget evergreens — from select junipers, which produce beautiful blue seeds, to pines whose seeds are clustered in cute cones.

"One of my favorite seed producers is northern sea oats, which add a good deal of interest to an otherwise dreary winter landscape," says Paul. "I also like the look of false indigo's (Baptisia) seed heads."

Even tropical plants can produce cool seeds such as the bean-like pods of the Tecoma or those of a jatropha, which displays both flowers and seeds at the same time.

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This is the seed pod of the Kentucky coffee tree, which is a fine tree for a large landscape. Don't bother using the seeds to make coffee, however; it tastes terrible.

Says Paul, "So when you plant something, think beyond the obvious attributes like flowers and foliage, and consider what a plant can offer in the way of interesting seeds or seed pods."

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