How to identify autumn seeds

Many late-summer flowers are now in seed. We have illustrated 12 distinctive forms to look for this October. 

Creeping thistle Cirsium arvense

                                                                           Illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole 


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

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



3 Teasel Dipsacus fullonum

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



4 Traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba

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

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



6 Common mallow Malva sylvestris

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



7 Meadow cranesbill Geranium pratense

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



8 Agrimony Agrimonia eupatoria

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



9 Bird’s-foot trefoil Lotus corniculatus

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



10 Himalayan balsam Impatiens glandulifera

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



11 Wood avens Geum urbanum

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

Large relative of cow parsley with round, ribbed seeds that cling to the dried umbrellas of the parent plant.


We use cookies to improve your experience of our website. Cookies perform functions like recognising you each time you visit and delivering advertising messages that are relevant to you. Read more here