When plants explode! Nature at its comic book best (video)

Exploding plants
Screen capture Smithsonian

Zap! Pow! Va-va-voom! These plants show the astounding ways in which they ensure their seeds fly far and wide.

We all know that plants can move. Stalks reach for light, roots seek soil … they move in slow languid ways in response to stimuli. But then there are the speedy guys, the lightning quick plants that display so-called rapid plant movement. Some snap to it for food – like the Venus flytrap which slaps its maw closed in a remarkable 100 milliseconds. Others practically defy physics in the name of reproduction. The white mulberry tree holds the record for this with its impressive pollen launch in which the stamen straightens in less than 25 microseconds and moves the petals to speeds in excess of half the speed of sound, thus approaching the theoretical physical limits for movements in plants. Incredible.

Meanwhile, a number of plant species use rapid movement to disperse seeds. In these, the plants don’t rely on animals or wind to spread their seeds, but rather, they have mechanical energy stored and transferred to the seeds upon touch to launch them through the air. To see them in action is gorgeous but also somewhat humorous – it's hard not to be charmed by their exuberant gestures.

The video below shows violets, touch-me-nots and the ol’ squirting cucumber doing their darnedest to get those seeds out there. Plant porn at its best! Nature has such glorious tricks up her sleeve.

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