The role of wheat awns in the seed dispersal unit

Rivka Elbaum*, Liron Zaltzman, Ingo Burgert, Peter Fratzl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

506 Scopus citations


The dispersal unit of wild wheat bears two pronounced awns that balance the unit as it falls. We discovered that the awns are also able to propel the seeds on and into the ground. The arrangement of cellulose fibrils causes bending of the awns with changes in humidity. Silicified hairs that cover the awns allow propulsion of the unit only in the direction of the seeds. This suggests that the dead tissue is analogous to a motor. Fueled by the daily humidity cycle, the awns induce the motility required for seed dispersal.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)884-886
Number of pages3
Issue number5826
StatePublished - 11 May 2007
Externally publishedYes


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