The Stokes-flow parachute of the dandelion fruit

Cathal Cummins, Ignazio Maria Viola, Madeleine Seale, Daniele Certini, Alice Macente, Enrico Mastropaolo, Naomi Nakayama

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The fluid mechanical principles that allow a passenger jet to lift off the ground are not applicable to the flight of small plant fruit (the seed-bearing structure in flowering plants). The reason for this is scaling: human flight requires very large Reynolds numbers, while plant fruit have comparatively small Reynolds numbers. At this small scale, there are a variety of modes of flight available to fruit: from parachuting to gliding and autorotation. In this talk, I will focus on the aerodynamics of small plumed fruit (dandelions) that utilise the parachuting mode of flight. If a parachute-type fruit is picked up by the breeze, it can be carried over formidable distances. Incredibly, these parachutes are mostly empty space, yet they are effectively impervious to the airflow as they descend. In addition, the fruit can become more or less streamlined depending on the environmental conditions. In this talk, I will present results from our numerical and physical modelling that demonstrate how these parachutes achieve such impermeability despite their high porosity. We explore the form and function of the filamentous building blocks of this parachute, which confer the fruit's incredible flight capacity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventForm and deformation in solid and fluid mechanics - , United Kingdom
Duration: 18 Sept 201722 Sept 2017


WorkshopForm and deformation in solid and fluid mechanics
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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