Winter weeds at Woodend

Five nature fun facts from today’s winter weeds workshop with Stephanie Mason:

  • The generic name for the tickseed sunflowers, Bidens (two-toothed), describes the two-barbed achenes that are typical fruit of the various species.
  • Sensitive Fern (Onoclea sensibilis) is also known as Bead Fern. Look at the spore cases along the fronds in winter to see why.
  • The slender seed pod of Dogbane (Apocynum sp.) looks like a mustard’s silique, but it’s actually a follicle that splits open on one side.
  • Broom Sedge (Andropogon virginicus) is not a sedge, but a grass, and it rather resembles Little Bluestem.
  • A little while ago, I had tumbled to the nomenclatural connection between Cardueline finches and Carduus thistles. But what I didn’t know, as Stephanie explained, is that goldfinches delay breeding into the summer, when thistles are about to set seed. Rather than feeding nestlings insects, as is the norm with songbirds, the parents regurgitate “thistle milk” for their young.