Seeds are the reproductive products of plants. As such, they carry the promise of their parent plants’ survival within them. Plants sow their seeds in a variety of ways, primarily through dispersal vectors, which biologically refers to agents that disperse, or transport, seeds. These agents may be culled from living components, such as animals (biotic) or non-living environmental components, such as wind (abiotic). Seeds that are transported by the wind are referred to as wind-dispersed seeds or as wind-sown seeds.
Some seeds are designed for distance dispersal. For example, each dandelion (genus Taraxacum) seed is attached to a tuft of fine feathery bristles, pappus (Greek: pappos and Latin: pappus, “old man”), that facilitates wind dispersal by acting like a parachute. Likewise, the samaras, the distinctive wing-shaped achenes (single-seeded fruits), of maples flutter and spiral in the wind like gliders and whirligigs.
The fascinating aspect of wind dispersal is that plants and trees oftentimes are deposited away from the vicinity of their parents and thus are surprise, hopefully welcome, residents of their new home.
Three saplings, clearly dispersed by the wind, have staked their claims over the past nine years to three different patches of my yard. These unexpected guests, with long-term intentions, consist of an Eastern red cedar, a black locust, and a silk tree.