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Discovery Magazine 11/1/2000

Leaving Home

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

A seed's purpose is to develop and produce an adult plant, but in order to do that, it must find a nice place to grow. Ideally, this should be away from the parent plant. Why? Both the seedlings and the parent need as much sunlight, water, and food as they can get. If they grow too close to each other, then none of them will grow very well. Also, it is best for plants to spread out as far as they can. If the parent plant and theseedlings stay in one smallspace, there is a greater chance of both being wiped out by fire, disease, or some other calamity.

Seeds are scattered, or dispersed, from their parent plant in a variety of ways. Most rely on wind, water, or animals. Wind is the most obvious form of dispersal. Tiny seeds from orchids can be blown for hundreds of miles. The dandelion and maple have parts designed to catch the wind. Some plants have a capsule that explodes when it ripens, which shoots seeds into the air where the wind blows them farther away. One of the best examples of water dispersal is the fruit of the coconut palm. Thick, tough layers surround the seed so the coconut can float for many days without being harmed. When it lands on a beach, it does not need soil to germinate. Instead, it uses a rich supply of coconut "meat" to start growing.

Other plants rely on animals to spread their seeds around. This is where the tasty, fleshy fruits become important. Animals eat the seed along with the nutritious fruit. The seed is tough, so it passes through the intestines without being harmed. Later, when the animal gets rid of its waste, the seed gets left behind on the ground. Another way is to hitch a ride by sticking or hooking onto fur or skin.

We humans do not have to move a long way from our parents when we grow up. But when Adam married Eve, God explained that a man should "leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). As we get older, God wants us to grow into responsible adults (kind of like a seed grows into an "adult" plant). We need to learn how to look after ourselves so we can have our own family, and then teach our children to love and obey God.

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