Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Worlds Smallest Seed and Other Plant Trivia

Kim, the Blackswamp Girl in her blog, A Study in Contrasts recently (October 23) posted a picture of tiny Nicotiana seeds. Before I saw the photo of her seeds, I thought the Lobelia 'Crystal Palace' seeds were the tiniest. This piqued my interest in finding out what is truly the smallest seed in the world.

I came across this interesting website of Botanical Record Breakers from Wayne's Word which lists things like:

1. The World's Oldest Living Thing
The Oldest Germinated Seed
2. The World's Oldest Living Fossil
3. The World's Most Massive Living Thing
4. The World's Tallest Tree
5. The World's Hardest & Heaviest Wood
6. The World's Smallest Flowering Plant
7. The World's Smallest And Largest Fruit
Largest Bean Pod & Seed Cone
The World's Largest Sperm
8. The World's Largest Hitchhiking Fruit
9. The World's Largest Vegetable
10. The World's Smallest And Largest Seed
11. The World's Smallest And Largest Leaves
12. The World's Largest Flying Seed
13. Longest Distance Traveled By Drift Seed
14. World's Fastest Reproducing Plants
15. The World's Fastest Growing Plants
16. The Fastest Trapdoor On A Plant
17. The World's Deadliest Plants
18. Most Painful Botanical Encounters
19. World's Most Valuable Plant Jewels
20. Dislaimer: Authenticity Of Coconut Pearls
21. Most Complex Plant-Insect Relationship
22. The World's Largest Stinking Flowers
23. Plant & Animal Adaptation Hyperlinks
24. Go To Diversity Of Flowering Plants

Just the sort of trivia I love.

So, what's the smallest seed? From WaynesWord: "Certain epiphytic orchids of the tropical rain forest produce the world's smallest seeds, up to 35 million per ounce. One seed weighs about one 35 millionths of an ounce (1/35,000,000) or 0.81 micrograms. Some seeds are only about 1/300th of an inch long (85 micrometers). [The resolving power for an unaided human eye with 20-20 vision is just under 0.1 mm.] Orchid seeds are dispersed into the air like minute dust particles or single-celled spores, eventually coming to rest in the upper canopy of rain forest trees."

My Dad used to grow orchids as a hobby and I remember breaking open the seed pods of an Epidendrum. The seeds were very thin, fine and light but they were fairly long probably 4 times the diameter of the Lobelia seed so it never occurred to me that this could be the smallest seed I've ever seen. It also was many, many years ago that I broke open the pod so I guess I can be forgiven for not remembering. However the Epidendrum may not be the orchid that Waynesword referred to so the seed he wrote about may be exceedingly small.

There's a photo of an orchid pod with seeds spilling out on the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens website that looks very similar to the one I opened as a kid.


Blogger Vanillalotus said...

I love looking at records and finding out what is the biggest the smallest the weirdest.
I think it's funny how childhood memories are often so far back you can't tell if it's a memory. It makes it seem like we imagined so many things when we were little we don't know what we really saw.
I never knew that orchids had such small seeds but it makes sense.

7:22 AM  
Blogger DeeMom said...

Fascinating Post

7:27 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Vanilla Lotus,
I just love weird things like that. I remember being fascinated by Ripley's Believe It or Not when I was a kid. Indeed, the older you get it seems you can't know if memories are real or scraps of something told, something remembered or something that actually happened.

Since a lot of orchids are epiphytes, how else would they get up in those trees unless the seeds were exceedingly light which usually translates to small. I should have known that.

Hi Dee Mom,
Thanks. I love interesting trivia but I don't seem to be able to remember much of it and the web doesn't help a bit. There's so much information at your fingertips now I'm definitely at a point of oversaturation. See ya.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Yolanda Elizabet said...

Amusing isn't it how we human beings are always fascinated by what is the smallest or tallest of fastest whatsit. Fun post Ki!

5:52 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Yolanda Elizabet,
Yes quite amusing. I wonder why this penchant for facts? I think in my case it was looking through the World Book Encyclopedia that my father was duped into buying. That encyclopedia seemed to make it a point to list facts like the longest river, highest mountain, largest fruit, tallest building etc.

Funny too that people still have interest in the Guinness book of World Records .

6:51 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Hi Ki,

I almost forgot to come back and leave a comment after getting immersed in Wayne's word. I love these kinds of facts too ...

8:58 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

I wouldn't have minded Kate. Some of the information was quite interesting and it's easy to get engrossed in the reading. ;)

6:41 PM  
Blogger lisa said...

Great info, thanks for the link!

6:02 AM  
Blogger Ki said...

Have fun Lisa. This would be good reading material for our dreary forecast this weekend.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Blackswamp_Girl said...

No way my camera would focus on that orchid's seeds! *grin* Very cool info, Ki--now I'm off to get lost in WaynesWord, thanks. :)

8:42 PM  
Blogger Ki said...

Hi Kim,
The seeds must look like the smallest specks of dust. I would think you'd almost need a microscope to see them. Now remember to do your chores first before you get too engrossed at the WaynesWord site! ;)

6:59 AM  

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