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  • Luke Llewellyn

Burrs. An inspiration.

Throughout the massive variety of traits within the plant kingdom, various plants possess unique techniques for seed dispersal. Although many plants look to disperse their seeds within the local area, some plants look to disperse further afield, providing opportunity to colonise new resource rich areas, and mix genetic material with distant relatives.

A good example of long-distance seed dispersal can be seen with burs. A bur is a fruit or seed which has external hooks on the outside of its casing, enabling it to cling on to hosts. They utilize Epizoochorus dispersal. Epizoochorus dispersal involves the adhesion of seeds to the external parts of animals, enabling them to be transported whilst attached 1.

Revisiting the topic of biomimicry (Inventions and innovation inspired by nature), Burdock fruits have had a massive impact on the world. They gave the inspiration for Velcro back in 1941, when Swiss engineer and inventor George de Mestral noticed a few attached to his dogs fur 2.

The bur above was stuck to my t-shirt after a day of cutting back a wildflower meadow, so I thought I'd take a closer look. The image below is further magnified, just to highlight how curved the hook is at the end of the barb. Isn't nature wonderful...


Knut Anders Hovstad, Silje Borvik and Mikael Ohlson, Journal of Vegetation Science, Vol. 20, No. 3 (Jun., 2009), pp. 455-464


#nature #barb #velcro #invention #biomimicry #burr #bur #seed #wildflower #gardening #seeddispersal #fruit

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