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Traveling Seeds


“Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Pop! Wheee!”

That’s Patty Manning, mimicking the way hummingbird bush and desert petunia scatter their seeds. Manning runs Sul Ross State University’s native-plant greenhouses in Alpine, Texas. So she appreciates the diverse strategies desert plants have evolved to spread around their offspring. Hummingbird bush and desert petunia have little club-shaped fruits—fruits being the plant part that usually encloses seeds. After these fruits dry out, they split.

Manning: "And there’s a mechanism inside that actually flings the seed. You can hear them pop. It usually happens when the fruit is exposed to some amount of moisture. It pops it open and sends the little seed inside flying. They’re sort of disc-shaped."

So these ballistic discusses are hurled every which way. How do other plants in the Chihuahuan Desert region disperse their seeds?

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