New: in addition to Science Today, now also Science Tonight. One minute of easy-to-digest science to brush your teeth. This time by answering the question: Why are all the seeds a different size? And this time, I’m talking about plants.
The largest seed – weighing tens of kilograms and measuring about half a meter in length – is the double coconut. This one comes from a very rare palm tree. The one that only grows on two islands and of which only thousands remain. The smallest seed comes from the tropical orchid. A millionth of a gram, they are. And 0.05 millimeters long. But why these huge differences?
It’s not just about the size of the parents, it’s about what the seeds have to endure. They receive exactly the amount of energy and protection that the embryos they carry need to survive. Sometimes, for example in the case of the double coconut, this means that the seed “you” must still be alive after floating in the sea for months. The seeds of an orchid may be small, but they go out in the millions. Because the chances of them finding the perfect spot on a branch to grow are slim.
If a plant or tree grows in a very shady place, the seeds will again be larger, as with oak. Because young plants need to rise quickly into the air to get enough light. Often, big is not necessarily better. Large seeds are eaten faster by animals, for example.
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