plant biology

Dandelion Flight

image of a single dandelion with the two vortices of air above it

Dandelion seed with air vortex above filaments (taken from Cummins et al, 2018).

Today I learned: two years ago scientists finally figured out the secret to dandelion flight. A group from the UK found a new type of air movement (an air bubble/vortex that stays right above each seed, but doesn’t interact with it) that keeps dandelion seeds afloat. Each seed basically acts like a disk with a lot of holes in it that allows air to flow through. They also showed that the seeds can stay afloat so well and travel so far because of the structure of the seeds. Dandelion seeds are lightweight and plumed, which means that they can create air drag while still providing stability. So the next time you blow on a dandelion puff, you can think of each seed as a little parachute being carried by the wind. 


Reference: Cummins, Cathal, et al. “A Separated Vortex Ring Underlies the Flight of the Dandelion.” Nature, vol. 562, no. 7727, 2018, pp. 414–418., doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0604-2.