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Nature’s Hitchhikers

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 03, 2021

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

macro photo of the seed of a hitchhiker plant

Those are a selection of Dillon Marsh’s macro photographs of the sneaky and clever seeds of various hitchhiker plants. The seeds of this type of plant can attach themselves to the fur, hair, clothing, or skin of animals, catching a ride in order to spread themselves over a wider geographic area in order to ensure a greater chance at survival.

In perhaps one of the best examples of biomimicry, a hitchhiker plant called the burdock was the inspiration for Velcro:

In 1941, George de Mestral had the inspiration for the hook and loop fastener while he was on a hunting trip in the Alps with his dog Milka. George noticed that burdock burrs — a tiny seed covered in hundreds of microscopic ‘hooks’ that catch onto the natural ‘loops’ that cover fur, clothing and hair — kept sticking to his dog’s fur.

This was the moment that George saw a huge opportunity. He spent the next decade with a microscope investigating how the burdock burr’s barbed, hook-like seeds engaged with the ‘loops’ on his trousers, trying to create a new type of clothing fastener.

(via moss & fog)