The acorns, beechnuts, berries and fruits of many of our trees and bushes are mature and ready for picking. All of these are really seeds; some just have fancier packaging, like the apples, pears and acorns. The bright colors help aid birds and other animals to see them. Along with the colors, the nutritious meal is the plant’s way of making sure the seeds get eaten or carried away for the survival of that plant species.
Birds and animals eat the seeds and they get deposited elsewhere in the droppings. Squirrels and chipmunks all collect seeds and bury them or hide them for winter food sources. This helps spread the seeds throughout the area, where many may grow into trees, if conditions are right. Its nature’s way to get seeds transported throughout the planet.
In some cases the seeds can just sit idle and wait. They are dormant until there is a disturbance, which creates the right ecological atmosphere for them to grow in. A fire may burn off surface organic matter which exposes mineral soil; a medium where some species prefer. A wind storm can topple trees which expose the ground to sunlight, which activates those dormant seeds to start growing. This starts the ecological plant race to see who gets the sun and who gets shaded out and dies.
Some seeds have built in Velcro so they stick to your dog’s hair or your coat and get carried to another site. I have a collection on one of my orange sweatshirts that seems to be a sticky seed magnet. I don’t have the patience to pick each seed off, so I wear the shirt and deal with it. Who cares? My existence doesn’t depend on fashion!
These acorns, berries and other fruits and sticky things all contain the seeds for the next generation of plants. A plant’s goal is to grow and reproduce. Nature’s marketing campaign seems to work. Plants are everywhere.
Rich Redman is a retired District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and an avid outdoorsman. His column will appear regularly. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.