3 October 2021
By October the seed pods of American bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) are papery brown three-sided puffs.
If you peel one apart it becomes three heart-shaped pieces. Each piece may hold one popcorn-like seed. Some pieces may be blank.
Six months ago the bladders began as small dangling flowers less than 1/4 inch long. Notice the three-part leaves that give this native shrub or small tree its trifolia species name.
By late July the bladders were green and very puffy. Each section had its own distinct point.
And then the bladders dried out.
American bladdernuts put so much effort into seed pods that it’s surprising to find they can spread by suckers, especially in their favorite habitats of floodplain woods or stream banks in eastern North America.
Visit Schenley Park this month to see the bladdernuts. Pull a seed pod apart and look inside.
(photos by Kate St. John, map from Wikimedia Commons; click on the caption to see the original)