The se­cret life of seeds and how they can travel

Medicine Hat News - - TRAVEL-YOUTH - Patty Rooks

The weather seems to be hold­ing and we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a great Septem­ber. As the first week­end of fall is here, it ap­pears as if it is go­ing to be ab­so­lutely gor­geous for us. I am go­ing to sug­gest that we make the most of it, as all of you know, it likely is not go­ing to last long! Be­fore we know it cold weather and dare I say snow will be here. Let’s get out­side and do some ex­plor­ing to­gether.

*Re­mem­ber to ask an adult be­fore do­ing this ex­per­i­ment.


- pair of shoes - pair of old wool socks that are too big for you

- back­yard, field or an area to walk around in - tweez­ers - mag­ni­fy­ing glass - sheet of white pa­per


1. Pull the wool socks on over the shoes that you are wear­ing.

2. Go out­side to a field or an area that you can walk around in for a lit­tle while.

3. Once you are done walk­ing, take the socks off very care­fully.

4. Place the socks on the sheet of white pa­per.

5. With the tweez­ers, gen­tly pull off all of the seeds that have “hitch­hiked” onto you.

6. Ob­serve the seeds with the mag­ni­fy­ing glass.

7. Do you rec­og­nize any?


What kinds of seeds can you iden­tify? How did the seeds get there? Why are these seeds called hitch­hik­ers?

Seeds re­ally lead a se­cret life. With­out legs, seeds need in­ge­nious ways to get around. An­i­mals and birds spread seeds un­know­ingly as they pick up fruit and berries and carry it off to their nest or rest­ing lo­ca­tion to eat it. They will dis­card the seeds as of­ten times they are too hard for them to eat, they just want the fruit that sur­rounds it. Trust me, I know as I have been hit in the head a time or two as the birds eat the chokecher­ries off of the trees and sit on my house eat­ing them!

Did you know that seeds of­ten have small barbs or hooks on them? These hooks at­tach them­selves to an­i­mals or any­thing that comes by them. When you go for a walk out­side, they can at­tach to you (your clothes for in­stance) and then get car­ried to a new lo­ca­tion. In this ex­per­i­ment, they eas­ily at­tached to the wool socks that you were wear­ing over your shoes. This is where the idea for the ex­per­i­ment came up and what I mean when I say that some seeds “hitch­hike” or catch a free ride with you to a new lo­ca­tion.

Some seeds can of­ten travel in other ways as well. “Parachuters” such as dan­de­lions, and “winged” seeds, like those from maple trees, are so light that they are blown eas­ily from place to place. There are also “shoot­ing” seeds which are formed when pods burst open and fire the seeds out. Who knew there were so many dif­fer­ent kinds? Have fun ex­plor­ing.

Do not for­get about our an­nual Fam­ily Science Olympics com­ing up on Oct. 14. This free fam­ily event will be held at Medicine Hat Col­lege once again. Keep read­ing for more de­tails!

Patty Rooks is se­nior sci­en­tific con­sul­tant at PRAXIS, “Con­nect­ing Science To The Com­mu­nity.” Con­tact Praxis at praxis@prax­, www.prax­, Tweet or fol­low us @Prax­isMedHat, or friend us on Face­book.

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