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Secondary dispersal mechanisms of winged seeds: a review

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


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Winged seeds, or samaras, are believed to promote the long-distance dispersal and invasive potential of wind-dispersed trees, but the full dispersive potential of these seeds has not been well characterised. Previous research on the ecology of winged seeds has largely focussed on the initial abscission and primary dispersal of the samara, despite it being known that the primary wind dispersal of samaras is often over short distances, with only rare escapes to longer distance dispersal. Secondary dispersal, or the movement of the seeds from the initial dispersal area to the site of germination, has been largely ignored despite offering a likely important mechanism for the dispersal of samaras to microhabitats suitable for establishment. Herein, we synthesise what is known on the predation and secondary dispersal of winged seeds by multiple dispersive vectors, highlighting gaps in knowledge and offering suggestions for future research. Both hydrochory and zoochory offer the chance for samaroid seeds to disperse over longer distances than anemochory alone, but the effects of the wing structure on these dispersal mechanisms have not been well characterised. Furthermore, although some studies have investigated secondary dispersal in samaroid species, such studies are scarce and only rarely track seeds from source to seedling. Future research must be directed to studying the secondary dispersal of samaras by various vectors, in order to elucidate fully the invasive and colonisation potential of samaroid trees.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1830-1838
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Reviews
Issue number5
Early online date19 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019

    Research areas

  • Secondary dispersal, Samara, Anemochory, Winged seed, Diplochory

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