This is a:
a) Baby pangolin
b) Squirrel-chewed balsam fir cone
c) Section of fish skin with placoid scales
d) Bud of a cycad plant, a reminder of the Mesozoic
Hint: Photo taken (1) in Maine where autumn is underway, (2) near overenthusiastic weed-eaters.
Answer: The inside of a not-quite-mature milkweed seed pod, cut then exposed by lawn care devotees. Each seed is attached to a “coma,” a bundle of silky threads that puff open into a wind-catcher when the seeds break free. The silks are remarkably soft, like the fluffiest bird down. Luckily for those of us who like softness and need warmth, the Québécois are now cultivating milkweed for use as clothing insulation.