The secret life of seeds and how they can travel
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 email@example.com, www.praxismh.ca, Tweet or follow us @PraxisMedHat, or friend us on Facebook.