And the plant they come from.
The other day, the red Mexican Bird of Paradise plant outside my office window began shooting its seeds. Since then, I’ve been collecting them.
I like the seeds. They’re like pretty little rocks. The plant throws them all over the area at the end of its growing season, but they seldom sprout. They’re just too hard.
The red Mexican Bird of Paradise is a low-water plant that’s popular in Arizona. We have two of them on a drip irrigation system in our front yard. They grow slowly until the nighttime temperatures warm up, then grow like weeds. At the height of the season, they fill with red and yellow flowers. As shown here, the flowers attract butterflies in addition to the hummingbirds that are always attracted to red.
Time passes. The flowers fade and seed pods appear. You can see an example of one on the far left in the photo below. The seeds in the pods fatten up. Then the seeds and pods dry out. The pods split on their seams, twisting as they break apart, shooting the seeds all over. You can see a recently split pod in the middle in the photo below; there are still two seeds stuck in it. I collect the seeds because I like the way they look. There’s a bunch of them in the photo on the far right. They’re about the size of a very large pea.
A close-up of the seeds reveals tiny imperfections and cracks. But don’t let the cracks fool you. These seeds are as hard as tiny rocks. That makes them difficult to germinate. So despite the fact that hundreds of them drop in our front yard each autumn, we’ve only had two plants sprout from seeds.
When the seeds are all dispersed and the nights get cold, the plant loses its leaves. In the dead of winter, it looks like a bunch of ugly sticks. In the spring, before things start to grow, we cut them back to a few inches above the ground. Then, as it warms, the entire cycle of life begins again.