Mossy Vortex Rings

Sphagnum moss disperses its spores explosively, forming a vortex ring.

Many plants have evolved an ability to move remarkably quickly. Often, this capability is driven by water. Here we see the moss Sphagnumaffine, which disperses its spores explosively. The process is triggered by the spore capsule gradually drying out; its shape changes from round to cylindrical, pressurizing the capsule. Once the internal pressure is high enough to overcome the strength of the capsule’s upper membrane, the capsule bursts, sending a plume of spores aloft. The sudden release of spore-laden air forms a vortex ring, which lifts the spores higher far more efficiently than they would be otherwise. (Image credit: capsule dry-out – J. Edwards et al., spore dispersal – J. Edwards et al. 2010; research credit: J. Edwards et al.)

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