Seed Dispersal – How Do Plants Spread Their Seeds?

seed dispersal

Photo via Flickr.

Do you know how many different types of seed dispersal there are?  Plants have a variety of strategies to achieve their goal of spreading their seeds.

Every living organism has the life goal of survival and reproduction.  The amazing thing about the natural world is the different ways that life has figured out to accomplish this.  Even trees and plants, which appear so still and unchanging compared to animals, have done this.  Here are several different strategies that plants have come up with to get their seeds spread.

Why Do Plants Disperse Their Seeds?

Plants make seeds in order to grow new plants.  However, if the seeds simply fall to the ground under the parent plant they probably wouldn’t get enough sun, water or nutrients to survive.  This caused plants to come up with ways to spread their seeds far from their parent plant.  They do this in order to give the seeds the best chance at surviving and growing into new plants.

What Are The Different Kinds Of Seed Dispersal?

seed dispersal

A samara from a maple tree.


Some seeds, such as from Maple trees rely on the wind to carry them to new places.

seed dispersal

A coconut travels on water. Photo via Flickr.


Some seeds use water as a means of spreading to new locations.  One prime example of this is the coconut.  A coconut is able to float on water and move to new locations, hopefully landing somewhere it can grow.


Many seeds are spread by animals.  Seeds have cleverly evolved over time in a way that encourages animals to spread them without the animal even meaning to do so.  There are two main ways that animals spread seeds:

seed dispersal

A Clarks nutcracker is a common bird of the Rocky Mountains that stores seeds.

Animal Storage

Many animals will store seeds or nuts as food sources to help them survive the winter in the Rocky Mountains and other cold areas.

For example, nuts are large seeds that squirrels or birds may collect and store.  One example of a bird that stores seeds is the Clarks Nutcracker.  This bird hides thousands of seeds in the fall to eat over winter.  It has a great memory and can remember where most of them are located.  But, inevitably those animals don’t eat all of the seeds they stored and some of those may grow into new plants.

seed dispersal

Some seeds are spread via bird poop. Photo via Flickr.

Spread Through Poop

Another way that animals spread seeds is through their poop.  Some seeds are located inside of berries or other tasty morsels that animals eat.  The animal may have a nice snack and then leave the area.  Later the animal may defecate and that poop will contain the seeds that are now in a new location far from the original parent plant.