Imagine a type of flowering plant capable of growing on terrestrial planet with surface gravity a tenth of Earth and it has a thin atmosphere with composition similar to Earth's but as thick as Mercury's.

I am beginning to wonder how would the plant spreads those seeds in the absence of wind and insects to help in pollination?

note that the temperature fluctuation ranged from -150 degree Celsius at night to 150 degree Celsius in the day but this extreme plant somehow has completely adapted to the environment.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Do you limit the question to seeds because you have specifically decided that they will propagate by seed? Have you considered, for instance, spreading by suckers, and rejected it? $\endgroup$
    – Mary
    Jul 1, 2020 at 3:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Mary: are we having a play on words? there is the squirting action as stated in the answer and yours is spreading by suckers(losers I presume...) ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jul 1, 2020 at 3:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @;D: No. In plant propagation, a sucker is a stem of a plant that (usually) grows under ground for some distance from the parent plant, then grows a new stem. Many plants do this to some extent. Some kinds of bamboo are notorious invasively spreading this way. Aspen trees form colonies that can cover many acres, and be thousands of years old: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pando_(tree) $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Jul 1, 2020 at 4:28
  • $\begingroup$ To a close approximation Mercury does not have any atmosphere, and certainly doesn't have a pressurised environment that would be of any help to any plant. Off topic hence the comment rather than answer , but in case this is for a story it doesn't sound remotely realistic. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Jul 1, 2020 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ @Slarty: life finds a way ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Jul 1, 2020 at 7:52

4 Answers 4


Both pollination and seeds dispersal can work using the peculiar properties of the thin atmosphere: no drag and extremely low pressure.

Basically the plant develops a pressurized capsule containing the pollen/seeds and fluid at higher pressure than environment.

When the capsule cracks because it's ripe, the pollen/seeds will be propelled by the fluid and spread around. Thanks to the low drag the ballistic trajectory will diffuse them all around.

If it works on Earth for the squirting cucumber, imagine the effect on this planet with much lower atmospheric pressure...

  • $\begingroup$ Darn, that was going to be my answer. At least with 150 degrees C you can have steam explosions, maybe even a mini steam cannon. $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 1, 2020 at 3:15
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Funny how nature gets there first. Exploding seed pods ---uk.video.search.yahoo.com/search/… --- Or this Exploding Cucumbers! | Slo Mo facebook.com/watch/?v=214090589848262 $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2020 at 9:37
  • $\begingroup$ I was going to say Jewel-Weed. Mechanical rather than pressurized (or at least pressure created by mechanical means) but same idea! $\endgroup$
    – Sol
    Jul 1, 2020 at 23:25
  • $\begingroup$ White Mulberry does this. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Jul 2, 2020 at 12:33

The seeds are surrounded by a delicious outer layer (fruit anyone?). Animals eat them and poop them out far away. They are by then coated in a nutritious fertilizer.

  • $\begingroup$ How do they poop them far away? Do these animals have intrinsic far-pooping powers? Or is that something conferred by the fruit? Because I may have eaten something like that once. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Jul 1, 2020 at 17:18

There are many Earth plants that use ballistic dispersal for their seeds -- most such (like certain species of locust trees) grow the seeds in pods like beans, with a strain "baked into" the pod sheath -- when the pod is dry enough (and the seeds ripe), the sheath will crack very suddenly, twisting the two sheath halves violently and flinging the seeds -- on Earth, this will spread seeds several meters from a height of a meter or two. In low gravity and thin air, it could easily triple the dispersion, possibly reaching ten meters.

With ten meters of dispersion per generation, a thicket of such plants could cover a continent in a couple millennia -- best have some aggressive grazers to keep them in check...


The seeds can move under their own power.

Seeds already come surrounded with fruit that can help with dissemination in various ways. Maybe the fruit is eaten, or floats, or even sticks to animals and is carried off. Yes, yes; all been done and all possible for your world. But what about a new way? This is fabulous fiction after all!

Your plant has seed that can move under their own power. You can make this as sophisticated as you like. Maybe they can crawl like a slug or scuttle in a spiderlike fashion. Maybe they wriggle across the ground like a snake.

These motile seeds might move out randomly and sprout where they stop. Or maybe they can do better; maybe they trail rootlets that can sense soil conditions, and actively seek out a good place for the kind of plant they are.


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