This particular pod did not explode as forcefully as some of them do, so you will have to trust me when I tell you that the architecture of a California poppy seed pod is such that the pod, when ripe, explodes with a violent cleaving whose force is enough to eject the seeds. Basically, the pod pops open and chucks its babes abroad. Put another way, the green pod is a kind of loaded spring, like a rat trap whose trigger is not a rat but life itself. When the plant starts to die back, the life force that held the pods closed weakens, and the stored potential energy inherent in the design of the pod is unleashed. The seeds shoot everywhere, and this actually presents a problem for the seed collector. It's best to let the pods open by their own action, rather than pry them open forcibly, but with this comes the inevitable consequence that the plant will shoot many of its seeds beyond your grasp, which is the plant's wont to do. The solution is easy: you just put the unexploded pods in your grandmother's old pie plate, and you accept some inevitable losses.
This is not the first time that I've written about seed dispersal methods. Of the one-hundred-and-one things to think and write about plants, seed dispersal methods is among my favorites. It fascinates me because it's so pregnant with metaphor. In the past I've compared plant seed dispersal to human beings packing their kids off to college, which is to say that I've only thought about where a plant sends its offspring, not about the force with which it sends them. Not all plants use force to disperse their offspring, or at least not all plants use such explosive force as the California poppy—some use wind, some use animals, some use obsessive humans like me. Whatever the case may be, collecting seeds this morning I watched one explode by its own volition, and I could not help but think about an expecting human mother and the muscle she is equipped with to push out her baby. That baby doesn't just slip out. California poppy seeds do not slip out languidly either. There is always some mechanism to birth a new thing, and sometimes force is involved. Think about that when you watch the fireworks tonight. What force pushed those sulphuric flowers into the air?