Seed pods can serve as a handy adjunct to identifying our two genera of North Carolina Milkvines, particularly in late summer and fall, when the vines are no longer in flower, and caterpillars have ravaged the foliage. Often the only thing left in the fall is a lonely pod or two on a ragged vine.
Both Gonolobus and Matelea have seed pods so unique that they serve as their common names. Gonolobus suberosus var. suberosus is called Eastern Anglepod and Matelea decipiens is called Deceptive Spinypod.
The Gonolobus anglepods have five sides, each separated by a distinct ridge. The pods are asymmetrical with the sides being unequal – either narrow or wide. See below.
Below are unusual “twin” anglepods. Notice that the ridges are minimal on the anglepod on the left, giving it a smoother look.
These anglepods measured about four inches long and an inch or a little more wide. Most had very pronounced angular ridges, as the one below.
The spinypods of Matelea decipiens are covered with small knobs that eventually become prickly when the pod matures. Below are a series of photographs depicting the growth and gradual maturation of Matelea spinypods. In the first photo below, note that a few of the flower petals still remain on the swelling fruit.
As the pods mature, they become increasingly elongated, often assuming a shape like a spindle.
The final photograph below shows the mature spinypod compared with the anglepod of Gonolobus. The darker contrast background shows that the ends of the knobs have finally hardened into prickly spines. This spinypod measured 5 and 1/2 inches long.
The spinypods of Matelea decipiens and Matelea carolinensis are virtually indistinguishable from each other. M. decipiens was used due to the higher number of pods that happened to be available this year.