Dandelion pappus morphing is actuated by radially patterned material swelling

Maddy Seale, Annamaria Kiss, Simone Bovio, Ignazio Maria Viola, Enrico Mastropaolo, Arezki Boudaoud*, Naomi Nakayama*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Plants generate motion by absorbing and releasing water. Many Asteraceae plants, such as the dandelion, have a hairy pappus that can close depending on moisture levels to modify dispersal. Here we demonstrate the relationship between structure and function of the underlying hygroscopic actuator. By investigating the structure and properties of the actuator cell walls, we identify the mechanism by which the dandelion pappus closes. We developed a structural computational model that can capture observed pappus closing and used it to explore the critical design features. We find that the actuator relies on the radial arrangement of vascular bundles and surrounding tissues around a central cavity. This allows heterogeneous swelling in a radially symmetric manner to co-ordinate movements of the hairs attached at the upper flank. This actuator is a derivative of bilayer structures, which is radial and can synchronise the movement of a planar or lateral attachment. The simple, material-based mechanism presents a promising biomimetic potential in robotics and functional materials.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2498
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date6 May 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 May 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • plant reproduction
  • Motion
  • Biomimetics
  • Plants
  • Taraxacum
  • Robotics


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