Individual dandelion seeds parachute over fields on the wind to better distribute their species. Sir David Attenborough narrates this clip from episode one of the BBC’s The Private Life of Plants. From Wikipedia:
A number of species of Taraxacum are seed-dispersed ruderals that rapidly colonize disturbed soil, especially the common dandelion (T. officinale), which has been introduced over much of the temperate world. After flowering is finished, the dandelion flower head dries out for a day or two. The dried petals and stamens drop off, the bracts reflex (curve backwards), and the parachute ball opens into a full sphere. When development is complete, the mature seeds are attached to white, fluffy “parachutes” which easily detach from the seedhead and glide by wind, dispersing.
The seeds are able to cover large distances when dispersed due to the unique morphology of the pappus which works to create a unique type of vortex ring that stays attached to the seed rather than being sent downstream. In addition to the creation of this vortex ring, the pappus can adjust its morphology depending on the moisture in the air. This allows the plume of seeds to close up and reduce the chance to separate from the stem, waiting for optimal conditions that will maximize dispersal and germination.
In the archives: The Fungarium and Millennium Seed Bank Partnership, radish seeds sprouting in time lapse, and Acorn.