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Learn This: Seed Dispersal


Try This: Seed Dispersal

Though we think about plants as being stuck where their roots are, they have a way of getting around — at least for their seeds! Go for a walk and explore how seeds get around. This is called seed dispersal, and plants have several really neat methods of getting their seeds out in the wild.

Try This: Seed Dispersal

The methods of seed dispersal are:

  • Gravity
  • Wind
  • Ballistic 
  • Water
  • And even animals


Gravity: Some plants simply drop their seeds. These plants rely on gravity to disperse their seeds. Seeds from the poppy plant emerge from their fruit like pepper from a shaker, which allows the plant to form a colony around it. Seeds from the Red Buckeye fall from their fruit and sometimes roll away.

Wind: Other plants use ​wind​ to get around. The “helicopter” seeds from maple trees that may be all over your neighborhood right now can travel up to 600 feet, while the seeds of the dandelion have been known to travel 500 miles away! The Milkweed plant, which is very important to the monarch butterfly, also uses wind to disperse its seeds.

Ballistic: Seeds from the oxalis, the shamrock, and the Artillery Fern are bursting to get out! These plants produce their seeds in pods and capsules. As the seed matures in the fruit, the pod swells. In nurseries and greenhouses, the oxalis plant is known to hop from pot to pot using this bursting method. This type of dispersal is called ​ballistic, because the seeds are like projectiles.

Water: Tropical vines and palm trees such as the coconut disperse seeds around the world using water​. A coconut can travel for 110 days and 3,000 miles!

Animals: Plants purposely produce tasty nuts, fruits, and seeds to attract animals ​that will disperse their seeds. It’s estimated that squirrels forget where they hide nearly 75% of the nuts they collect. Thanks to the grey squirrel, 32 different species of oaks continue to grow in North America! Birds consume fruits and berries leading to seeds being distributed many miles away. Even humans cultivate and plant thousands of plant species for food. So even though plants are stuck in place, they’ve gotten around the entire world!

Remember just like plants, you need sunlight and fresh air! Go on a nature walk and see how many fascinating seeds and ways for them to be dispersed that you can find. Photograph your discoveries and show us using #SMOathome!