What plant sticks its seeds to ostriches' feet?
June 19, 2012 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Please help me remember a plant, or tell me if I've made this up in my head.

Perhaps I'm imagining this, but I'm sure I heard about a plant native to African savannah whose strategy for propagation was to have a large thorny seed (or possibly seed pods?) that would get stuck to the feet of ostriches and be discarded far from the parent plant. However, I can't remember what it's called, and Google is turning up so much nothing that I'm beginning to suspect I've completely invented it. Does anybody know anything that might roughly match this description?
posted by Dim Siawns to Science & Nature (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Were you thinking of this?
Dispersal of acacia seeds by ungulates and ostriches in an African savanna
posted by Paragon at 2:07 PM on June 19, 2012


You probably heard about this in David Attenborough's The Private Life of Plants: "The evil hooks on the aptly named grapple plant of southern Africa take a firm, often painful, grip on the feet of passing ostriches." Here's the video clip where he discusses them.

The scientific name of the plant is Harpagophytum procumbens, and it goes by many common names: devil's claw, devil's thorn, grapple plant, etc.
posted by dialetheia at 2:22 PM on June 19, 2012


That's the one! I almost certainly would have heard about it from David Attenborough, too, now that you mention it. Cheers.
posted by Dim Siawns at 2:44 PM on June 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Goat heads? Devil Weed? It is a weed that has invaded the west, loves dry conditions (road sides) and will puncture your bike tires in nothing flat. Came from Africa originally.

Wife of 445supermag
posted by 445supermag at 6:41 PM on June 19, 2012


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