I can hear the small birds chirping just out of sight as creep along the ditch on the little side road below the interstate highway. Winter has definitely given us a mild start and the warm weather has given me an opportunity to grab a few extra photos between errands. I stopped in this spot because I caught a glimpse of some dark blue berries as I drove by. As I approach the vine to investigate I realized that I was surrounded by hundreds of tiny cube shaped seedheads. The top of each little box seems to be decorated with a finely carved relief carving. The ornamentation gives the little box the look of something one might find in a Victorian home. One pore in the center of the ornamentation allows seeds to escape. The seeds themselves are so small that hundreds of them will fit on the surface of a U.S. dime. The plant itself is nearly five feet tall.
I remembered seeing an example of the seedhead in one of my guide books but it’s not listed as food or medicine so I never really paid much attention to it. In fact it took me a couple of hours on Google just to confirm the name. Locally it’s been called rattlebox because the dry box shaped pods do make a slight rattling noise but there’s also a poison plant called rattlebox and several that go by rattleweed. So the most widely used common name is “Seedbox”. The scientific name is Ludwigia alternifolia. The genus Ludwigia tells me that it’s the same family as the primrose that adorns the edges of my yard with large yellow flowers in summer and us actually capable of listening for bees to come close. (Primrose actually sweetens it’s nectar in response to the buzzing of bees). The species name alternifolia tells me that the leaves alternate up the stem instead of growing in parallel. In this time of year the plant takes on a beautiful orange color. The orange color of Seedbox in late December.
As a part of the ecology of Appalachia and beyond Seedbox seems to be a food source for several insects but small butterflies were named on several links.A very small butterfly takes a break in the gravel. One of many that feeds on Seedbox.
The flower of the Seedbox closely resembles a primrose only smaller and it has that happy yellow color that makes is suitable for certain spots on my property as part of my native landscape and the fact that it attracts butterflies makes it more desirable. As a bonus we also get the beautifully designed box in winter. Image Titled “Seedbox 122719C”
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