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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - January 03, 2013

From: Long Beach, NY
Region: Northeast
Topic: General Botany
Title: Seaweed seed dispensers in Long Island, NY
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Several months ago, we found what are probably seaweed seed dispensers. They are dark brown, hard, four sharp points,section where it would have connected to the main plant and an open hole where the seeds could have been dispersed. Only found three during the summer. My grandchildren and I appreciate your help. Sincerely,

ANSWER:

Only the plants belonging to the groups Gymnosperms and Angiosperms have seed dispensers (think of pine cones and apples). The seaweeds (kelps and rock weeds) have a very different means of reproduction that doesn’t involve the production of seeds.

What you have found most likely are the egg cases of a shark or skate, which are often called  “mermaid’s purses”. This link describes egg cases in some detail and includes images to compare with what you have found. To help further your grandchildren’s interest in sharks and marine life, check out the Shark Research Institute, which is located in Princeton, NJ, and select “Kids” from the menu.

 

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