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Word of the Week: Pappus
October 09, 2019 by Haya Aldoori

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Milkweed Seeds by Andrew Yee

Pappus [PAP-uh s] (noun): A downy, bristly, or other tuftlike appendage on the one-seeded fruits of certain plants.

This fun word comes from the Greek word pappos which means old man or grandfather (in reference to having a grey beard or white hair).

Have you stopped to wonder about the different ways in which seeds move and travel? Some seeds float in the water, some stick to animal fur or human clothes, and some seeds use the feathery bristles of the pappus to be carried by the wind.

One of the many plants in High Park, which uses this method of wind dispersal, is Milkweed. In late summer, Milkweed plants produce really distinct seed pods, which are horn-shaped, or long, narrow, and tubular. In the Fall, the seeds are ready to disperse and the pappus on the seeds will expand, causing the seed pod to burst. The dark seeds and their soft white fluffy pappi are now exposed and ready to take the air.

If you are looking to plant some Milkweed for the Spring Monarchs of next year, Fall is the perfect time to get a head start! We’ve been planting Milkweed seeds with some of our Fall programs, and we encourage you do the same in your garden.

Keep an eye out for Milkweed and all the other plants which have pappi on your next Fall visit to High Park!

Other High Park examples of plants which have pappi include dandelions, asters, thistles, colt’s foot, and goldenrod.

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