How Do Sunflowers Disperse Their Seeds?


Different members of the sunflower family can disperse seeds in different ways, including through wind and animal dispersion. The sunflower family is known as asteraceae, and this is the largest known family of flowering plants on Earth. In addition to the iconic yellow-and-black flower sitting atop a tall green stalk, the sunflower family includes many other types of flowering plants, including the flowers of succulent plants such as the string of pearls and dandelion-like thistle plants.

Sunflower seeds as they’re known to most humans have a tear-shaped hard shell with black-and-white patterning that houses a nutty seed inside. Humans aren’t the only animals who enjoy snacking on these seeds, and that’s one way sunflower seeds are dispersed, as wild animals such as birds and squirrels gather and transport these seeds when they’re available. Other members of the sunflower family have adapted for alternative dispersal methods.

The thistle members of the sunflower family have adapted small, light, helicopter-like seeds that can easily be dispersed by wind. Other kinds of asteraceae, such as the cocklebur, have prickly seeds that attach themselves to animal fur or skin or to human pant legs, socks and shoes to guarantee dispersal. These seeds are quite different in appearance and taste from the snackable sunflower seed as it appears in grocery stores, but they are all from plants that are in the same family.