October 5, 2011
A seed is a very small container for a tiny living plant. Most seeds contain a primary root, first pair of leaves and first bud, as well as stored food and a coating to protect the seed from drying out or being injured. A seed needs light, warmth, water, air and soil to grow. If there are many seeds in one area, competition for these resources makes it difficult for all the seeds to survive. Plants have developed a variety of methods to disperse their seeds-transport them to another location-so they have a better chance of growing. This prevents over-crowding and depletion of the supply of nutrients. Here are some ways that seeds are dispersed:
Parachuters: These seeds are very lightweight and have long fine hairs that catch the wind, which carries them from the parent plant. Dandelion and milkweed are parachuters.
Hitchhikers: Animals and people can transport seeds that hook themselves onto fur or clothing. Burdock is an example of a hitchhiker.
Gliders: Gliders, like maple and ash, have "winged" seeds that travel considerable distances on the wind.
Explosive: Some seeds form in pods, which burst and throw the seeds into the open. Peas, touch-me-not and clematis are examples of an explosive dispersal method.
Animal Food: Apples, grapes and strawberries, as well as nut trees, provide food for animals. Animals can't digest the seeds, so the seeds end up in their scat or "poop." Squirrels gather and bury nuts for the winter but sometimes don't return to eat them, leaving new plants to grow.
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Want to help some plants disperse their seeds? Put some old socks on over your shoes (wool works great) and walk through a field or area where there are a lot of plants. After your walk, carefully remove the socks. Using tweezers, pick the seeds off and separate them by size, color or shape. How many different kinds hitched a ride on your clothing? If you walked for a while, think of how far those seeds would grow away from the parent plant.
Take That to the Bank
Late summer and early fall is a perfect time to start your own seed bank. Remove the seeds from flowers or fruits in your garden. Look around the ground for maple seeds or acorns from oak trees. Search through the woods for some pine cones, pull out the scales, and look for the seeds. Dry out all the seeds indoors, making sure to keep them separate from one another. Put each type of seed in a different container, such as an envelope or clear film canister. Mark each container with the name of the seed, and put them aside to plant next year. Some seeds need to go through a cold dormant period, so store your seeds in the freezer.
Read Conservationist for Kids for more information and activities!
Upcoming DEC Events
Fall Family Fishing Festival at Hempstead Lake State Park
Saturday, October 15 from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $5 for age 12 and older, plus parking fee
(currently closed due to fiscal constraints, but the Stony Kill Foundation is sponsoring events)
Stony Kill: A Historical View
Sunday, October 16 from 2:00PM to 4:00 PM
Nuts About Wildlife
Saturday, October 8 at 10:00 AM
Hunt for Red October
Saturday, October 8 at 2:00 PM
Watchable Wildlife: Who's Hoo
Friday, October 14 at 7:30 PM
Girl Scout Program: The Ways of Water
Saturday, October 15 at 10:00 AM
Please contact the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York or call 518-489-8110 to register or for information. A nominal materials fee applies.
Boring Subject: Forest Pests
Saturday, October 15 at 2:00 PM
Saturday, October 8 from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Call 518-456-0655 to register. Cost: $2.00/person, $5.00/family, children under 5 free
Western New York
Advance registration is required. Call 716-683-5959.
Thursday, October 6 and 13 at 4:30 PM
For children in grades K-5. No registration required.
Saturday, October 8 at 10:30 AM
For adults and children over 8 years old.
Fall Plant Hike
Saturday, October 8 at 2:00 PM
Full Moon Walk
Wednesday, October 12 at 6:30 PM
Secrets of the Old-Growth Forest
Saturday, October 15 at 10:30 AM
Alien Investigation Hike
Tuesday, October 18 at 6:30 PM