Scaly quiz

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

e) Other


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.

9 thoughts on “Scaly quiz

  1. mickiebond

    On a scale of 1 – 10 I give this an 11

    ….and I live in the Sonoran Desert and have dry skin……I KNOW scales.


  2. Arlyn

    David, thank you for this. It is so beautiful on many levels and layers. May I have your permission to use it in one of my new m/m collages? (Attributed to you, of course.)

  3. Scott

    I knew what this was when I scrolled down to see the full image and got to the “comas” because my wife loves to pick the partially-open pods, finish-up opening the pods, and then blow strongly on the seeds to scatter them to the wind. (I like to do it, too!) I’ve seen many, many of these scaly cones over the years.


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