Video: When peat goes POP

When nature calls, and kingdom Plantae is whipped into a reproductive fervor, peat moss doesn't merely release its spores -- it explodes them. For the first time ever, researchers using ultra high speed video have recorded in exquisite detail the volatile burst of spore capsules in several species of __Sphagnum__ moss, and they've noted quirks of fluid dynamics, called "vortex rings," previously associated only with animals or machines. (For example, when squid and jellyfish propel themselves th

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Jul 21, 2010
When nature calls, and kingdom Plantae is whipped into a reproductive fervor, peat moss doesn't merely release its spores -- it explodes them. For the first time ever, researchers using ultra high speed video have recorded in exquisite detail the volatile burst of spore capsules in several species of __Sphagnum__ moss, and they've noted quirks of fluid dynamics, called "vortex rings," previously associated only with animals or machines. (For example, when squid and jellyfish propel themselves through water or helicopters chopper through the air, similar spiraling donuts of fluid result.) The mosses use the special dispersal technique to launch their genes high enough -- more than 10 cm above the carpet of low-lying plants -- to ride air currents and float aloft so they can be disseminated far and wide. "If you want to know anything about the persistence of a species, you need to know how it reproduces and...

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