Explosive Seed Dispersal of Leafy Spurge

Caitlin Carmody and Dr. James Wilking, Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, P.O. Box 173820, Bozeman, MT 59717-3820

Leafy spurge, an invasive weed found throughout North America, outcompetes native grasses and is poisonous to cattle and horses. Managing leafy spurge is expensive, and the estimated economic costs total more than $100 million annually between Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Leafy spurge spreads by explosive rupture of seed pods, which can launch millimeter-scale seeds up to 15 ft from the plant. To explore the physics of seed dispersal, we use high-speed imaging, force measurements, and microscopy. We find that the shells have a layered composite structure with layers that deform anisotropically in response to changes in humidity. Intriguingly, capillary forces in the cells of the shell appear to play an important role, and the shell deformation generated by drying is reversible. These ongoing experiments may lead to new strategies for managing and eradicating leafy spurge infestations.

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Caitlin Carmody

Institution: Montana State University Bozeman

Type: Oral

Subject: Plant Sciences

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 1
Date/Time: Mon 1:30pm-2:30pm
Session Number: 143
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