Have you ever been walking around outdoors and come upon a seed pod at your feet? Perhaps you took your dog to run around at the park, and later noticed some kind of pod sticking in its fur. Many plants create seed pods as a way of propagating themselves, but pods often look nothing like the plant. Here are some steps for identifying the pods that you come across.
Obtain a sample seed pod. There are some places where you are more likely to run into strange seed pods; however, they are usually designed for travel, so they can be found just about anywhere. Be on the lookout for pods in the late summer, when many plants go to seed. Open fields, wooded trails, ponds and marshes are likely places to spot strange seed pods.
Handle the pod with care. Many seed pods are very small, and the identifying characteristics can be crushed or damaged easily if you're not careful. If you're not going to be identifying the pods in the field, be sure to bring plastic baggies or plastic containers to transport them home with you. Old prescription bottles are the perfect size for this.
Identify the basic characteristics. Even though you might not be able to tell the species of plant that made the seed pod right away, you can start to notice some important characteristics before you even open your identification guide. What size is the pod in comparison to your hand? Where did you find it? What colour is the pod? Is it hard, soft, feathery or spiny? Does it have a tail, wings or a cone? These details can help you narrow down the options for identifying the pod.
Search for a match in a seed pod identification guide. Obtain a copy of a field guide to seed pods that is specific to the area in which you live. Use the initial characteristics that you noted to direct you to the right area of the book. Usually the guide will have grouped the plants and pods by their colour, size, location and feel. Make sure you have the sample handy so that you can compare it to the pictures for a positive identification.