The hairy flower wild petunia (Ruellia ciliatiflora) shoot seeds that spin up to 1,660 times per second, which helps them fly farther. These seeds have the fastest known rotations of any plant or animal, the authors say. Plants that disperse seeds a greater distance are likely to be more successful in reproducing and spreading.
The glue that holds the flower’s pod-like fruit together breaks down on contact with water, allowing the fruit to split explosively, launching millimeter-sized seeds. Little hooks inside the pod help fling these flattened discs at speeds of around 10 meters per second.
Using high-speed cameras that record 20,000 frames per second, the seeds’ flight. Instead of spinning horizontally, most seeds spin counter-clockwise vertically, like a bicycle wheel in reverse.
Stable “spinners” had less drag on average than “floppers,” seeds that tumbled as they fell. Simulations predict that lower drag lets spinners travel 6.7 meters on average — more than twice as far on average as floppers.
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International Conference on Plant Science
August 6-8 2018
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