Dispersal of Seeds by Force Some plants provide their fruits (seedpods) with a mechanism that ejects the seeds

from the pod by force.




There are several methods plants use to fling their seeds out of the seedpod. All of them rely on the effect of evaporation of water in the seedpod, so this method of seed dispersal usually takes place in the sun. It is one of the favourite methods used by members of the Papilionaceae (formerly Leguminosae). If you walk over heathland near Gorse bushes on a hot sunny day, you can hear the explosions of the seedpods as they burst open and send their seeds out. Lupins, too, have a similar system. The side of the seedpod facing the sun dries out more quickly than the side in the shade, causing the pod to buckle and pop open. The seedpods then curl up like animal horns, sending the seeds flying. Geraniums also use the heat of the sun to shoot their seeds from the pods. The seeds are in a ring at the base of the style, each one with its own cover which is attached to the tip of the style by a thin woody strip. When the seeds are ripe, the seed covers split apart, and the strip rips up the style but is stopped suddenly because the strip remains attached to the style. The seeds are catapulted out at high speed. Oxalis seeds are covered by an elastic coating. When this dries out, it splits suddenly, shooting the individual seeds out of the pod. Euphorbia is another plant whose seedpods crack open with a loud explosion. When the three joints in the seedpod dry out, they split open suddenly, and the seeds are shot out. Ceanothus berries also operate this system when the fleshy outer covering has dried out. Plants that disperse their seeds by this method include:







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like the tail of a kite. Some seeds have long.g. They don't need so much wind as the seeds that fly. from a climber called Alsomitra growing in the tropical forests of Asia. and this system only works well in a good wind. Examples of seeds spread by the use of wings and tails are: Puya Tecoma Embothrium Pandorea Pulsatilla Clematis Seeds that drift in the wind Seeds that have almost weightless additions that enable them to be carried long distances by the slightest breeze are familiar all over the world. This type of attachment is quite heavy. Sometimes seeds have thin wings as an extension of the seed that enable them to glide in the wind. but may start off as a two-winged pod that later splits in two to release the seeds. These wings usually support one seed each. feathery tails which help them to fly.Dispersal of Seeds by the Wind Wind is one of the main agencies of seed dispersal. Seeds that can fly or glide Hornbeam Sycamore Ash Some tall trees produce seeds with stiff wings covering the seed that enable them to fly long distances. but they are not so heavy. The way it transports them depends on the type of seed and where it grows. as the wings of modern planes and helicopters are designed in the same way. Some seeds have only one wing (e. and from a tall tree. . Lime or Ash). These natural adaptations for using the wind to transport the weight of the seed must be technically accurate. The wings are twisted and balanced so that the seed spins around as it is carried along by the wind. The largest of this type of seed is 6" across.

so that it can be picked up by the slightest breeze and carried over long distances. Thistles produce seeds with this type of fluff. each of which has its own tuft of fluff to give it a bigger area to be caught by the wind. Bulrushes produce many millions of dust-like seeds. Many members of the Daisy family provide their seeds with a flat disk of fine hairs to produce a parachute to keep the seed aloft. These additional features are usually various sorts of fluff which are almost weightless but increase the volume of the seed. .Willow Herb Bulrush Dandelion These are more flimsy additions to seeds which help them to be transported long distances by the wind. and thistledown is often seen blowing across motorways on its journey to colonise new sites. the seed is attached to fine hairs which open out when the seed is shed to form a ball. Examples of seeds spread by this method are: Amberboa Thistle Liatris Felicia Fleabane Dandelion Seeds that are released from their pod by the wind Many more plants just need the wind to bend their stalks so that the seeds spill out of the seed pod. Sometimes.

Columbine Poppy Evening Primrose Some seed pods face downwards. The method they use depends on the type of seed. but very many have their opening at the top. too. plants often surround their seeds with a brightly-coloured and sweet-tasting pulp. scatter their seeds this way. and these need the wind to bend their stalks enough to allow the seeds to fall out. Some seeds dispersed by this method are: Agrostemma Nemophila Dianthus Nigella Calceolaria Lilium Back to the Seed Dispersal Main Page Dispersal of Seeds by Animals Animals of all sorts and sizes help plants to disperse their seeds. so it must be an efficient method of spreading seeds. This often means that the seeds will not fall directly under the parent plant. Very many popular garden plants and wildflowers. Seeds with attractive fruit or seeds To attract the animals and birds and encourage them to act as seed carriers. because the stalk holding the seedpod is bent at an angle. so the seeds fall a little way from the parent. .

the seeds are covered in a sticky slime which the birds rub off on a new tree. they act as willing transporters of the plant's seeds. with its seeds. . In South American jungles. even ants carry seeds into their nests. squirrels eat nuts.Raspberry Sea Grape Bilberry In the deserts of North Africa. into the bushes. carrying some away in their stomachs and dropping others onto the ground. blackbirds eat our strawberries. monkeys eat figs and other fruit. mice eat grass seeds. Sometimes. as in the case of Mistletoe. Even humans carry seeds far away for plants . for example.by taking an apple on a picnic. eat the tasty outer covering and leave the seeds to grow safely underground. Examples of seeds spread by this method include: Date Monstera Tamarind Lablab Diospiros Sunflower Seeds with clinging hooks or spines When animals take fruits or seeds for food. Sometimes. but forget about them and the seeds germinate in their new location. some animals collect the fruits or seeds and bury them to eat later. As well as eating them. and in South Africa. and throwing the core. the plants make use of animals to carry their seeds without giving them any reward. In Britain. foxes eat raspberries. elephants eat the fruits that have fallen from the trees and deposit the seeds in their droppings several miles away.

The seeds are then carried a sufficient distance from the parent plant to give them space to grow. The most well-known plant of this type that we have in the UK is probably Goose Grass or Sticky Weed. but in other countries there are larger such hitch-hikers which can damage animals when they become lodged between the animal's toes and cause infection and lameness. which children throw at one another in a game. . or be rubbed off by the animal. Examples of seeds spread by this method include: Rambutan Bixa Trollius Cynoglossum Orlaya Eryngium Back to the Seed Dispersal Main Page Dispersal of Seeds by Water Some plants make use of water to disperse their seeds. in the case of humans. to our clothes or bags. the seed may fall off.or. There's more information about species in North and South America that produce large hooked or prickly seedpods here. Eventually.Entelia Lesser Burdock Sea Holly Many plants produce fruits or individual seeds covered in hooks or spines which attach the seed to the animals's fur or feathers .

Mangroves are another familiar tree of tropical beaches. They have woody. Plants which grow beside water often rely on water to transport their seeds for them. waiting to be flung onto the beach to continue germinating. across the ocean to land on European shores. Their seeds are unusual in that they can begin germination while still on the parent plant. far from any other trees. Trees found on tropical beaches often have their seeds carried there by the sea. They both have light seed that floats.Brooklime Yellow Water Lily Mangrove Although seeds of plants that grow in water are obviously spread by water. but familiar before its origin was known from the giant seeds washed up on other tropical beaches. Two tall trees. and they drop into the ocean when about a foot long. Australia or South America. which can be carried by the wind or by water. as is the famous Coco-de-mer. there are many other ways in which water plays a part in dispersing seeds. They may produce light seeds which float. Seeds of some tropical trees can even be carried along by ocean currents to land on shores half a world away. Willow and Silver Birch. They can colonise such isolated places because they both have very small. light seeds. Foxgloves and Harebells often grow beside streams. are often found in the middle of moorland. are carried from their homes beside rivers in Africa. the seeds of Entada gigas. Seeds spread by this method include: Yellow Flag Water Mint Foxglove Willow Coconut Sea Bean Back to the Seed Dispersal Main Page . waterproof coverings which enable them to float in the salty water for long periods. but along the course of a stream. These 'sticks' float upright in the sea. Coconuts are well-known travellers. or there may be fluff that helps buoyancy. found only on the Seychelles. Sometimes Sea Beans.

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