How do plants propogate?

What’s a good resource for learning how plants propogate?

I know some plants like Grasses (Poaceae) have stolons, which creep underground.

Others like Tamarisk (Tamarix) spread easily by wind.

What about plants like Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum)? I’ve noticed it growing under lamp posts where birds sit, assuming berries are part of their diet?

Are there any good resources that give this information? What critter (if any) helps propogate specific plants? Is this just something learned by observing enough plants and animals?

If you have any unusual stories about how it works for certain plants or animals, please reply too!

Juniper and cholla germinate well from coyote and bear scat, something about the stomach acid and also beneficial, because the seeds get transported far from the source.

Creosote and aspens and locust trees sucker (clonal colonies).


some seeds launch, some are wind or water blown, some are eaten and shat, and some catch on to passing animals. i’ve seen specific relations documented, but no general guide or classification.


Plants have an enormous number of ways of propagating.

Very broadly they can be broken into several overlapping categories that are not mutually exclusive: vegetative (vegetative propagation is generally/always? asexual), seed/spore based, asexual, and sexual.

Vegetative reproduction is common, meaning that the plant breaks off a piece of itself or clones itself. Stolons/runners (at aor just below the surface - think strawberries), rhizomes (below the surface, think bamboo or ginger), adventitious root (think ivy), bulbs, corms, & tubers (think chives when the bulb divides, or dutchman’s breeches, or potatoes), tip rooting (think brambles or grapes), broken limbs or fallen trees rooting (think willows and redwoods), dividing (think creosote and curly parsley), formation of small plants ready to root (think spider plants and mother-plants), is a non-exhaustive list of potential vegetative ways of reproducing. These methods are often non-exclusive as well, meaning that a plant may use more than one of these at a time. These are generally asexual methods of reproduction that produce what are essentially clones of the original plant.

Both sexual and asexual reproduction can produce seeds/spores/etc, and when this happens there is generally some genetic recombination that takes place. This can be relatively straightforward (flower, pollination, fruit/seed, seed falls, germination, new plant), or can be wonderfully complex and bizarre, as in ferns. Generally asexual propagation doesn’t lead to seeds, but some species can produce seeds this way, it’s called apomixis, when they do, and self-pollination is not considered to be asexula reproduction, that’s a subset of reproduction.

When it comes to sexual reproduction there are a few more factors to consider. Pollination (their fertilization of the reproductive structure), and plants have a variety of methods for this, but they basically come down to self pollination, wind pollination, or co-opting animals to to the pollinating, and the plants will make all sorts of specialized structures to appeal to (or trick) specific pollinators.

Similarly, when it comes to dispersal of the viable reproductive structures plants employ a wide range of strategies; some just use gravity, others wind, some use water, many hijack animals via a variety of methods (bribing with fruit, having sticky or clingy seeds - called phoresy -, sacrificing some seeds so that others survive, etc, etc).

In short, there isn’t a brief, simple answer to how plants propagate, they use a variety of methods, and a single plant may employ more than one at the same time, or depending on environmental situations.


My friend who is super into native plant species at the moment (southeast US) says this is the best book:
The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation: From Seed to Tissue Culture, second edition
It’s all the recommendations from scientific studies complete with sources/indexes but organized for easy reading/following of instructions.


In terms of how seeds get around, check this out

My person favorite is ballochory (or ballistic dispersal) where the plant shoots out its seeds.

Think of touch me not (Impatiens spp.), Cardamine hirsuta, and the most glorious of them all, the squirting cucumber


The sound effects added to that video are phenomenal! Was a little dissapointed when viewing this video and it didn’t have the farty-noises.

earthknight wrote a pretty broad comment on plant propagation! Here is a funny photo showing the asexual reproduction of a liverwort, Marchantia polymorpha. The “mouth” is actually a structure called a gemma cup, containing gemmae which are small structures that fly out of the cup when raindrops fall on them. Once they’re out of the mother plant, they will grow into new plants that are basically clones of the first one. (The “eyes” in the photo are immature gemma cups that are not fully grown yet) M.polymorpha can reproduce sexually as well. Another liverwort Lophocolea minor, very distantly related to M.polymorpha, has gemmae which grow on edges of its leaves. This makes the leaves look kind of scruffy. And there are many other amazing examples! Liverworts have many modes of asexual and vegetative reproduction and many of them parallel those found, for example, in flowering plants.

Concerning sexual reproduction/germination. The flowering plant, Rhizophora is a tropical mangrove tree and the seedlings start to grow out of the seed while still inside the fruit. They burst through it, and you can actually see them sticking out of the fruits. They fall off and grow into new trees. In liverworts there is something similar: spores can start germinating i.e. dividing when they’re not released yet! The spore outer case, called the exine, is stretched and you can see an unusually large or long so-called “multicellular spore”.

Interesting examples, I think!


Thanks for the video - I first saw that name yesterday, as I was IDing Unknowns. A most mysterious name …

Of which one of my favorites is Harpagophytum procumbens.

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Wow, that fruit(seed?) looks like some kind of alien from a science fiction film!

Tweaked the taxon pictures to add the seeds. With grappling hooks!

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