You might think that plants are pretty stationary, but they have evolved a myriad of ways of moving, especially when it comes to spreading their seeds and spores. Shown above is the spore of the horsetail plant, a spherical pod with four, ribbon-like elators that are moisture-sensitive. When exposed to water, the elators curl around the spore, but as they dry out, they unfurl (top). Repeated cycles of this allows the spores to “walk” short distances (middle). And, if the elators deploy quickly, the spore can even “jump” (bottom). Researchers recorded jumps high enough for the spores to catch a breeze and disperse further. For similar moisture-driven plant action, check out this seed that buries itself! (Image and research credit: P. Marmonttant et al., source; via Science News; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)
We’re celebrating botanically-based physics all this week with Plant Week. Check out our previous posts on the ultra-fast suction of carnivorous bladderworts and the incredible flight of dandelion seeds.