How Does Fruit Contribute to Seed Dispersal?

Introduction

Fruit contributes to seed dispersal in a number of ways. For plants, it is crucial to spread out their seeds so the new plants will grow in a favorable environment. These new plants need to grow an area away from the original parent plant so they don’t use up the same resources. It’s a method to ensure the survival of the plant species and avoid overcrowding. After the seeds ripen, a flower will turn into a fruit. In essence, the fruit is the ovary of a flowering plant. Seeds have a tough outer coating, and they will only germinate in the proper conditions. Even after dispersal, they may remain dormant during cold weather until the environment improves.

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Types of Fruit

You will find two types of fruit: dehiscent and nondehiscent. For dehiscent fruits, the fruit simply ripens and the seeds fly freely out like beans or pea pod. The seeds are separate units. In nondehiscent fruits, the seeds and the fruits form together into one unit. Many of these fruits have three parts: the outer skin, the middle flesh and an inner stone layer. Nondehiscent fruits can also create many fruits from many flowers, or just one single fruit from a big flower.

Many types of nondehiscent fruit exist, including simple fruits and drupes. Most simple fruits are berries, which are quite fleshy, juicy and brightly colored. Their seeds are often found within the fruit flesh itself, like grapes. Drupes are another type of fruit with one seed in the middle, surrounded by sweet flesh. Common examples of drupes include cherries, peaches and plums.
Other types of nondehiscent fruit include aggregate, multiple and accessory fruits.

Methods of Dispersal

Animals help disperse seeds in a variety of ways. Edible fruits are eaten by birds and other animals. Their enticing shape, color, taste and odor draw animals and birds to eat the entire fruit, seeds and all. The seeds are not fully digested, so animals then disperse the seeds through their droppings. Some animals may also spit out the seeds while eating the fruit. Other inedible fruits may develop spikes or burrs, which can cling to an animal’s fur or hooves. When removed at a later distance, they can then grow in a new location. Wind dispersal is also is a popular method of seed dispersal. Some plants have “winged fruits” so their seeds can float on the air to a new home. Other plants have flowers that turn into inedible lightweight pods, which can be dispersed by wind. Some fruits explode to send out their seeds, which send them out a short distance. The growing fruit expands and breaks a weak spot in the “seam” of the plant. The plant walls then flex back and fling the seeds outward. An example would be the squirting cucumber and witch hazel. Seed dispersal by water is not as common as wind dispersal. Coconuts are famous for traveling to new locations by ocean currents. Their heavy outer layer gives theirs seeds some protection for such a long journey.

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