Some of the less spectacular flowering stages that a Heterolepis aliena flowerhead goes through are shown in this photo. Long, green involucral bracts envelop the buds still to open and some dry seeds are hiding in a spent flowerhead among the leaves.
Before the first seeds are blown away, they form a soft, spherical, brown ball heralding completion of the production phase. This delicate, short-lived feature is soon demolished, responding to the slightest touch of wind to commence seed dispersal. Each seed has a white furry or silky covering as well as a group of long, bristle-like, yellow-brown hairs forming its pappus.
Once the seeds have departed on the wind, the honeycomb upper surface of the flowerhead receptacle that was hidden inside is exposed to view. A couple of these receptacle tops are still held up by the old flower stalks in the photo.
Note the spaced marginal teeth on the blue-grey leaves (Manning, 2007; www.plantzafrica.com).
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