The Seedy Side of Plants

NATURE uproots the cunning secrets of how flora reproduce in The Seedy Side of Plants.

They’re cunning and manipulative, and will do anything to get what they want. No, it’s not the cast of your favorite daytime soap. We’re speaking of the ubiquitous plant life that covers our planet, relentlessly evolving elaborate schemes to disperse its seeds and ensure the continuation of its almost limitless species.

How does such a seemingly passive life form accomplish the complex task of reproduction? Many plants take advantage of the primeval forces of Mother Nature herself to help their seeds germinate, sending them far and wide by means of wind, rain, and tides. Others have found ways to hitch rides for their seeds aboard other living things. For example, the burdock plant, which inspired inventor George de Mestral to create Velcro, has pesky burrs that sticks stubbornly to hair and fur.

Fruit, however, is perhaps the most commonly employed medium of seed mobility. Fruit-producing plants rely on the appeal of their fruits for dispersal of the seeds, and have evolved their own unique “marketing strategies” and their own select clientele — animals as well as humans — to help the process along. Even as scientists develop methods to control plant reproduction, each time we yield to the temptation to pluck a ripe juicy apple from its branch, we too become pawns in one of nature’s carefully devised game plans.

Online ontent for The Seedy Side of Plants was originally posted May 1999.



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