Another plant family which has evolved this parachute method of seed dispersal is the Milkweed Family (Asclepiadaceae). The Grass Family (Poaceae) includes a number of species with plumose flower stalks that fragment into seed-bearing spikelets that blow into the wind. Although their mode of dispersal is similar to single-winged helicopter seeds, the flutterer/spinners include seeds with a papery wing around the entire seed or at each end. The foliage contains a powerful cardiac glycoside that can permanently relax the heart muscle. The 2 sperm involved in the double fertilization process originated within the pollen tube that penetrated the embryo sac. To appreciate its airborne seeds, you really must see this grass during a strong gust of wind on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada during late summer. Woody brown seedpods of jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia) open to discharge brown seeds encased in an irregular pale papery wing, which flutter away on the wind. Incredible Seeds. … The spherical heads hang from branches like little balls. Foliage turns yellow, purple, red or bronze in fall, with small red to purple flowers followed by samaras often colored pink or red. Mountain mahogany actually belongs to the Rose Family (Rosaceae) and produces very hard wood that sinks in water when dry. Without getting too mathematical, the specific gravity of a substance can easily be calculated by dividing its density (in grams per cubic centimeter) by the density of pure water (one gram per cubic centimeter). One of the best examples of this method is Alsomitra macrocarpa, a tropical vine in the Gourd Family (Cucurbitaceae) native to the Sunda Islands of the Malay Archipelago. Purple tabebuia is hardy in USDA zones 10 and 11. In fact, the wood of a montane species (C. ledifolius), has a specific gravity of 1.12, as heavy and dense as ebony (Diospyros ebenum). Mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus minutiflorus), a native shrub in the chaparral of southern California, produces a rather unique wind-blown fruit. They reportedly inspired the wing design of some early aircraft, gliders and kites. The lovely yellow bells (Tecoma stans) is native to Mexico and the Caribbean region, and is the official flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands. During late spring and summer in the western United States, the cottony fluff from cottonwoods resembles newly fallen snow. Some of the examples in this group are very similar in function to parachute seeds, but probably are not carried as far by the wind. Some of these species have become troublesome weeds in southern California, including the South African fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum). Angiosperm seeds are produced and packaged in botanical structures called fruits which develop from the "female" pistils of flowers. Since they are dioecious, with pollen-bearing male and seed-bearing female trees in the population, only female trees produce the actual cotton. The seeds of kapok and floss silk trees are embedded in these silky masses which aid in their dispersal by wind; however they probably belong in Section 5 below (Cottony Seeds & Fruits). A samara is a simple dry fruit and indehiscent (not opening along a seam). Although they are flowering plants, banksias produce a dense flower cluster (inflorescence) that gives rise to a cone-like structure containing many woody carpels. When released from their seed capsules they flutter or spin through the air. This is the classic mechanism of dispersal for the Eurasian dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) and includes numerous weedy and native members of the Sunflower Family (Asteraceae). They include lignum vitae (Guaicum officinale, 1.37); quebracho (Schinopsis balansae, 1.28); pau d'arco (Tabebuia serratifolia, 1.20); knob-thorn (Acacia pallens, 1.19); desert ironwood (Olneya tesota, 1.15); and ebony (Diospyros ebenum, 1.12). A cattail marsh covering one acre may produce a trillion seeds, more than 200 times the number of people in the world. It grows in USDA zones 10 through 11. This is a troublesome weed in agricultural areas because it literally covers the farm land with bushy, prickly shrubs. Tumbleweed is a prolific seeder and rapid seed germination and seedling establishment occurs after only a brief and limited rainy season. Many plant families have this type of wind dispersal, including the Willow Family (Salicaceae): Willows (Salix) and Cottonwoods (Populus); Cattail Family (Typhaceae): Cattails (Typha); Evening Primrose Family (Onagraceae): Willow-Herb (Epilobium) and California fuchsia (Zauschneria); Bombax Family (Bombaceae): Kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) and floss silk tree (Chorisia speciosa); and the Sycamore Family (Platanaceae): Sycamore (Platanus). Immature seeds (called ovules) each contain a minute, single-celled egg enclosed within a 7-celled embryo sac. A second sperm unites with 2 haploid polar nuclei inside a binucleate cell called the endosperm mother cell which divides into a mass of nutritive tissue inside the seed. Trees with winged seeds are mostly subtropical to tropical, and make colorful flowering landscaping plants. Tipus grow in USDA zones 9, with winter protection, through 11, attaining 25 feet in height. Some examples of trees with winged seeds are pine, maple, jacaranda and catalpa. It is listed in most older references as Salsola kali or S. pestifer; however, the Jepson Flora of California (1993) lists it as S. tragus. In some parachutes, the crown of silky hairs arises directly from the top of the seed (not on an umbrella-like stalk). The South American tipu tree (Tipuana tipu) is a notable exception, with beautiful yellow blossoms that give rise to pendant, samara-like legumes, each with a large wing on the lower end. One fuzzy brown cattail spike may contain a million tiny seeds. One interesting use for this plant in arid regions of the American southwest is for a "snowman" at Christmas time. Cottony seeds and fruits include seeds and minute seed capsules with a tuft (coma) of cottony hairs at one end, or seeds embedded in a cottony mass. Numerous species of flowering trees and shrubs in many diverse and unrelated plant families have evolved this ingenious method of seed dispersal, good examples of convergent evolution. The wing typically has a slight pitch (like a propeller or fan blade), causing the seed to spin as it falls. Another suggested use is to compress tumbleweeds into logs and use them for firewood. Depending on the wind velocity and distance above the ground, helicopter seeds can be carried considerable distances away from the parent plant. One of the most troublesome weeds of farm land in the western United States is wild or thistle artichoke (Cynara cardunculus). True ironwoods include trees and shrubs with dry, seasoned woods that actually sink in water, with specific gravities greater than 1.0. In tropical regions of the New World, the kapok grows into an enormous rain forest tree with a massive buttressed trunk. They become airborne when released from their fruit and sail through the air like a true glider. Some pine trees have small seeds with papery wings that allow the seed to rotate as it falls out of the woody female cone when it opens. Cathryn Chaney has worked as a gardening writer since 2002. Seeds with a thin wing formed by the testa are likewise most common in trees and shrubs, particularly in climbers—jacaranda, trumpet vine, catalpa, yams, butter-and-eggs. Jacaranda has large clusters of lavender-blue flowers in spring and ferny deep green leaves. Three weedy species of salsify (T. dubius, T. pratensis and T. porrifolius) have been introduced into the western United States, 2 with yellow dandelion-type flowers and one with purple flowers. Since the pure cell wall material (lignin and cellulose)) of wood has a density of about 1.5 grams per cubic centimeter, even the world's heaviest hardwoods generally have specific gravities less than 1.5 due to tiny pores (lumens) within the cell walls. Three proportionally sized tumbleweeds are used to make the head, thorax and main body of a "snowman." Each seed has a tuft of silky white hairs and is small enough to pass through the "eye" of an ordinary sewing needle. Tumbleweeds often pile up in wind rows along fences and buildings. A kapok-filled life jacket can support 30 times its own weight in water. Mature plants readily break off at the ground level and are pushed along by strong gusts of wind. Representative examples of helicopter seeds and one-seeded fruits (called samaras) include the Maple Family (Aceraceae): Maples and box elder (Acer); Olive Family (Oleaceae): Ash (Fraxinus); Legume Family (Fabaceae): Tipu tree (Tipuana tipu); and the Protea Family (Proteaceae): Banksia and Hakea. This Nova Scotian seed producer's 2020 catalogue is live and shoppable online. This article concerns one of the most remarkable of all seed dispersal methods, riding the wind and air currents of the world. The bignonia family has showy, trumpet-shaped flowers. Pollination is also accomplished by the wind (or water), and it may also involve insects in some of nature's most fascinating relationships between a plant and an animal. The common tumbleweed or Russian thistle is a rounded, bushy annual introduced into the western United States from the plains of southeastern Russia and western Siberia in the late 1800s. asplenifolius) of southern California. Chaney also writes poetry, which has appears in "Woman's World" magazine and elsewhere.