Travelling Seeds

Since plants can’t get up and drop their seeds in new locations, they need help moving them around! That’s where different seed dispersal methods come in.

Seed dispersal is the movement of seeds away from the parent plant and, like pollination, is a process that is vital to the survival of a plant species. There are several different forms of seed dispersal and in this article you’ll learn about four of them:

Falling with gravity

Sometimes seeds will simply fall off a plant. This usually happens with the seed of fruit trees, where the fruit becomes heavier and heavier as it grows until it gets too heavy and falls from the tree. When the fruit hits the ground, it will either break open and release its seeds, or roll away and break down in a new spot.

Apple Orchard Tree Trunk, Red Fallen Apples on Ground

Getting some air with wind

Sometimes seeds can get carried away with a gust of wind. Unlike seeds in fruit, these seeds are light and have special structures that allow them to float on the wind. Seeds from dandelions, for example, have special feather-like “parachutes” that help them fly long distances and maple keys use their wing-like shape to guide them as they fall.

Close up of backlit autumnal maple seeds

Smooth sailing with water

Sometimes seeds move around using streams or rivers. These seeds have a tough or waxy outer coating to prevent them from absorbing water and they can usually float. This is the method used by plants that live in water, like water lilies, or that grow near water, like coconuts.

Coconut Floating in Tropical Waters Palm Tree Beach

Hitching a ride with animals

Sometimes seeds will travel with help from animals. Seeds in berries and other fruits might be eaten by hungry animals who can digest the fruit but can’t digest the seeds, and poop them out in new locations. Other seeds can get caught on feathers and fur – anyone with a dog who has run through a field and come out covered in burs knows exactly what we’re talking about! These seeds usually have special structures, like Velcro-like hooks, that allow them to get caught on things.

Cream horse mane close-up on black background

If you were a seed, which way would you want to travel?