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Splash seed dispersal by raindrops

Splash seed dispersal by raindrops was investigated for plants in southern Japan. Nine families, 10 genera and 19 species were confirmed as raindrop-dispersed plants. The 10 genera were Gentiana, Gratiola, Chrysosplenium, Mazus, Mitella, Ophiorrhiza, Sagina, Sedum, Trigonotis and Veronica. The method of splash rain dispersal in these species was clarified. Raindrop-dispersed species were all small herbaceous plants with a vertical pedicel and an apically opening fresh capsule when the seeds mature. Open capsules were cup-shaped or boat-shaped and can accommodate raindrops easily. The raindrops splashed the seeds from the capsule. In general, the seeds weighed very little, but they were heavier than powder or dust seeds dispersed by wind. A strong negative correlation was found between seed weight and the number of seeds per capsule. In the case of Trigonotis brevipes (Maxim.) Maxim., raindrops were received into the cup-shaped calyx-tube and dispersed the fruitlets. Some species, such as Gentiana thunbergii (G. Don) Griseb., Gentiana zollingeri Fawcett and Ophiorrhiza japonica Blume, had hydroscopic movement capsules that opened widely only when wet. Raindrop-dispersed plants were found in various habitats. For example, some plants grew together on rocks along the mountain torrents where splash water could easily be caught. The results of the laboratory and field experiments indicated that the dispersal distance of seeds by raindrops was 1 m or less. For small herbaceous plants, splash dispersal by rain might be an effective and advantageous method of seed dispersal because dispersal is not affected by plant height.

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Correspondence to Hiroki Nakanishi.

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Nakanishi, H. Splash seed dispersal by raindrops. Ecol Res 17, 663–671 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1703.2002.00524.x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.1440-1703.2002.00524.x

Key words

  • capsule
  • cup-shaped
  • hydroscopic movement
  • raindrop
  • splash seed dispersal