Wind Dispersal, Milkweeds

Did you know that the environment plants grow in can actually change the dispersal characteristics of the seeds? There was a study published in 2014 that shows this for an invasive species of thistle (Teller et al 2014). It’s especially interesting when you consider that this plasticity in dispersal could play a role in its ability to invade new places successfully.

Thistles have wind dispersed seeds, and there are many other wind-dispersed plant species…including milkweeds. I would bet that they have similar adaptations to the thistles in how they regulate dispersal!

Milkweeds
Seeds on their way out!
Milkweeds
Milkweeds
Milkweeds

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8 thoughts on “Wind Dispersal, Milkweeds

  1. As far as I’m aware no one has done a proper study of milkweed seed dispersal. But looking at your great pictures suggests that the comparison with thistles may be be completely correct: the seed plumes are very tangled and not dispersing the seeds very effectively. I have an alternative hypothesis that I’d love to see tested. Milkweed seed plumes are sometimes found lining the nests of birds; I’ve certainly seen reference to this in the South African literature. Perhaps these seeds are actually adapted to dispersal by birds that are collecting nest-building materials, as well as the wind?

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