Stephen Gidley (CC BY 2.0 DEED)
British Wildlife 35.3 December 2023

Plants on the wing: waterbirds and plant dispersal in Britain

Although we may think of plants as unmoving, years of distribution data show that this is not the case. But how do plants move, and how quickly? Here, David M. Wilkinson looks at the role that waterbirds play in dispersing ingested seeds.

When the Weyard Sisters tell Shakespeare’s Macbeth that he will remain in power ‘until Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill shall come’ you can see why he assumes that he will be safe. Plants are quite literally rooted to the spot, and woodlands do not go running around the countryside – except that this common-sense expectation is false, for reasons very different from those that led to Macbeth’s downfall.

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