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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Going to Seed

Everything is going to seed in my pasture.

Tall dandelion plants are letting the small parachutes fly, carrying their seeds in the air, and you can actually see the process in motion.

As the seeds float through the air, it is almost possible to ascribe volition to them, because they are in motion. If it moves, it must be alive. That's how our brains have been programmed to think.

The thistle flowers are going to seed as well.

When you see a pile of seed parachutes on the ground somewhere, it is sometimes hard to tell which plant they came from.

"Going to seed" is a funny expression in English. It can simply describe the process of a plant getting ready to reproduce by letting its seeds loose on the world. But because people are so into man-made gardens, it can also mean "to produce seeds because it has not had proper care." And by extension, going to seed as an idiom means "to decline in looks, status or utility due to lack of care."

Let that sink in. We seem to think that getting to the point when you can actually reproduce makes you look as if you have not had proper care.  We apply this to humans, too. No wonder so many women try to look like little girls.

Not all of the thistle flowers have gone to seed, though. Some are still flowering, and those are the ones that the Monarch butterflies are turning to now.

Can you see the Monarch hidden among the flowers?

I spotted the butterfly from far away, but this Monarch did not make it easy to take a picture.

Here are few stolen glimpses at the Monarch's glory:

Spreading it wings, it flew not away, but seemingly right at me.

Yet always  it turned in time to avoid a collision.

In order to make these tight turns, the butterfly had to resort to stunning aerobatic maneuvers, flying straight down or straight up at times, then righting itself at the last moment.

As we watch our children going from cute, helpless babies to teenagers ready to reproduce, we need to remind ourselves they are not going to seed in the sense of losing their utility. They are going on to the next very useful phase of life.


  1. The thistle photographs almost look like paintings. Did you use a photo editing program to create this effect?

    1. The photos that include the Monarch were taken from the video that I shot using my iphone. The butterfly would not hold still, so I could not capture it in a still shot. I think the effect -- it being somewhat blurry -- is due to that, but I do think it looks a little like a painting. The same is true of the thistle flowers going to seed. It was a video first then, edited in paint from a screenshot.

  2. I never realized the term "going to seed" could have any negative connotations. I find it to be a delightful part of the process, as I know when it's finished, I can collect more seed and spread them around, producing the next generation of whatever flower or grass in my field. Interesting factoid - did you know that every time a new plant sprouts from a seed that it is never 100% genetically like the flower / grass from whence it came? It is technically a new variety! How cool is that?

    1. Hi, Kathy. I actually first encountered this expression in books, mostly fiction, where it had that very negative connotation. I only later realized what the literal origin of it was.

      Yes, I think I did know that the seeds do not represent clones of the plant, but are more like children, who are similar, but not the same. But it is easy not to realize this if we buy our seeds in a store. Much better to collect those we have around us.