Alsomitra Seeds Glide Through the Air without Help from the Wind


Alsomitra macrocarpa is a vine in the tropical islands of Asia that winds around tall trees as it grows. Each Alsomitra fruit is as big as a human-sized helmet and contains as many as 400 seeds. These seeds have a boomerang-like shape that travel long distances in the air so that the vine seeds are spread as far as possible. The seeds also vary slightly in shape, which causes them to fall to the ground in different places from each other. This further ensures the growth of a next generation of plants. Pine and maple seeds are picked up by wind, rotate in the air and drop straight to the ground. This is not possible for the Alsomitra, which grows in rainforests with densely packed trees where there is little wind. Instead, the Alsomitra grows its fruit high in the canopy, so that it can drop its glider-shaped seeds from up high. The rising air currents that are characteristic of tropical areas also help the seeds travel widely.

Functional Classification

Use of natural phenomena

Environmental Solution Classification

Related Literature

Azuma and Okuno (1987). A. Azuma and Y. Okuno, Flight of samara, Alsomitra macrocarpa. J. Theor. Biol. 129 (1987), pp. 263–274. 

Technical Application

Alsomitra seeds have inspired new airplane designs. If the safety of these planes is improved, they could be used as passenger aircraft carriers. They could also be used to help people on high floors of office buildings glide safely to the ground in the event of an earthquake. Educational kits containing Alsomitra seed models help children have fun while learning about flight.

Products and Services

  • The Taube stealth fighter, a plane in the shape of an Alsomitra seed.

Type of Business

Proposals of Applied Technology

The shape of Alsomitra seeds may inspire new types of vehicles since is extremely well-suited to gliding through the air.

Proposals of Applied Industry

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