Have your clothes ever been attacked by burrs? Has your dog’s fur ever been matted with burrs? Burrs do not attack you and your dog out of meanness. Each tiny barb hides a seed—the key to the plant’s survival.
Have you ever tasted juicy, ripe wild blackberries? The seed-filled blackberries are not delicious just to be nice. The seeds that get stuck in your teeth are necessary for the blackberry’s survival.
Have you ever blown the fluff of a dandelion into the air and watched it lazily float away? The dandelions are not fuzzy and white only for your pleasure. Each umbrella-like puff of white is vital to the plant because it is an elaborate seed.
Every seed contains the beginning of a new plant. In wet, fertile soil, it will sprout and grow. Soon a new burdock, blackberry, or dandelion plant will push up through the soil. Given sunlight and water, it will grow and bloom. Then, as each flower fades, new seeds form. By developing seeds, an old plant provides for new plants to take its place.
A burdock plant may produce as many as five thousand barbs, each of which contains a single seed. Just think what would happen if five thousand seeds from every burdock plant sprouted and grew—burdocks would soon take over the earth! Even if we all ate fried burdock for breakfast, burdock soup for lunch, and burdock stew for dinner, burdocks would still be everywhere.
All the burdock burrs pulled from clothes, pets, and other places and thrown into the wastebasket cannot sprout. Neither can those that land on parking lots and streets or where it is too wet or too rocky. Out of a plant’s five thousand seeds, maybe fifty will sprout. Of those that sprout, some will not have enough light or room to grow. And some will be pulled out by gardeners. Maybe one or two will blossom and produce seeds. So, in order to have two new plants grow up and bear seeds, the burdock must produce five thousand seeds!
In a freshly plowed field or garden, burdock and other weeds pop up as though from nowhere. Good fertile soil is an excellent home for dandelions, quack grass, and other weeds as well as for tomatoes and cucumbers. Some of the weeds sprout from seeds produced in the empty lot down the road. Roving animals, gusty winds, and tumbling water may carry other seeds from even farther away. Seeds often travel great distances so that they will not all land in one spot.
As seed carriers, animals are very important. For example, every burdock seed has a little hook or burr on it. When a passing animal brushes against the plant, the burrs, seeds and all, latch on and get a free ride to wherever the animal goes. Many drop off where they cannot sprout, but some land on fertile soil and begin to grow.
Animals also carry other kinds of seeds. Blackberries, gooseberries, grapes, and apples are all good-tasting fruits with seeds inside. An animal eats the fruit but doesn’t digest the seeds, which are left on the ground with the animal’s body waste.
Clusters of small orange berries decorate mountain ash trees in autumn. Birds perch on the branches and gobble up the tasty seeds. The seeds will not sprout until they have passed through a bird’s stomach. By the time the bird drops the seeds, it may have flown many miles.
The wind also scatters many fully ripe seeds. Often they are so tiny that they are almost invisible. Small grass seeds, for instance, are very light, and the wind easily carries them. Other plants, such as dandelions and thistles, produce seeds with fluffy coverings that a breeze can catch. Occasionally seeds float halfway or even all the way around the world before they finally fall to the ground.
Some seeds travel by water, as though they were miniature boats. Palm trees line many tropical beaches. Their hard, ripe fruits—coconuts—fall to the beach and may drift out to sea with a high tide. Strong currents may carry them many miles. At last they wash up onto a new beach, sprout, and grow.
People also carry seeds everywhere. On boats, trains, cars, and airplanes, we transport seeds around the world. Besides plant seeds, we carry the “seeds” of the gospel to as many people as we can, always searching for those who represent the “good earth” that Jesus talked about in His parable of the sower (see Matt. 13:3–8).