Last time I mentioned that migration is linked to available food supplies. Warblers must migrate to warmer climates in winter so they can find the bugs which they love to eat. Seed eaters, though can stick around cold and snowy environs. Let’s take a look at different types of seeds and what makes them special.
Seeds are simply packages of potential plants. Hidden within their coverings is the genetic material needed to grow a new plant. Because this genetic material is made of protein, seeds are a highly nutritious food source for birds, animals and people.
Seeds are designed to continue the existence of a plant species and spread it throughout the environment. There are special adaptations which allow seeds to be transported far away from the parent plant.
Milkweed seeds are attached to silky smooth filaments that when dry, open and send the seed floating on the breeze to new habitats. Adaptations for air transportation are common among plant species. Dandelions exhibit this feature and are a favorite among children!
Many plants tuck their seeds inside an edible pod, including roses, apples and oranges. When an animal eats the pod, the seeds either fall out or are distributed elsewhere when the animal goes to the bathroom. The spread of the exotic and invasive Russian Olive tree throughout the West is due to this process.
Finally, some seeds are adapted to latch onto the fur of passing animals. Velcro was invented when George de Mestral observed the hook and loop formation of the cockle burrs clinging to his dog’s fur after a walk. These are generally heavier seeds that need a little help getting to new habitats.
Activity: Fall is the best time to look for different types of seeds and their adaptations for transportation. Send your children out with long socks over their pants and have them walk through uncultivated fields. You can also put socks on their hands and arms so they can collect even more seeds. They’ll need a box or envelope to collect “flyer” seeds. Make a collage or poster of the seeds you collect and label them either flyers, pods or hitchhikers. Open any pods to find the hidden seeds.
Have a seed snack. After talking about seeds and what they are, you can emphasize the nutrition of seeds by serving them as a snack. A muffin tin or small box will give a “bento” feel to this activity. You can provide any nut, such as sunflower seeds, almonds or peanuts, as well as fruit. Wheat berries, oats and rye are good to round out the variety.