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MLA Full: "Inventing with Plants!" YouTube, uploaded by SciShow Kids, 30 January 2018,
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VELCRO® fasteners are pretty cool, but what would you think if the idea came from living things? Jessi and Squeaks talk about the sticky seeds that inspired them!

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Check out this coat we found for Squeaks!

It’s got great colors, it’s just the right size, and it even has special pieces of Velcro to close it. Squeaks has some trouble doing buttons with his paws, but with the Velcro, he can put on his coat all by himself! [Squeaks squeaks a question].

That’s a good question, Squeaks. Just where does Velcro come from? You might be surprised to learn that the idea for Velcro actually came from a plant.

A long time ago, a man name George de Mestral was out walking his dog. They passed by some plants along the way, and they both brushed up against the plants as they walked. When George got home, he found small seeds stuck all over his clothes!

His dog’s fur was covered, too. He decided to get a closer look at these sticky seeds, and when he put them under a microscope, he saw that they were covered in tiny sticks shaped like hooks. Those types of seeds are called burrs, or sometimes cockleburs — or stickums, which is a pretty fun word to say.

Those tiny hooks all over each burr had hooked onto the fabric of George’s clothes, and even the tangles in his dog’s fur. Then George had an idea. He wanted to make something for people that could stick in the same way. [Squeaks squeaks].

You guessed it — Velcro! Let’s take a closer look at what he invented. It looks like one side has tiny, stiff hooks, just like the burrs did.

And the other side has soft, flexible loops of fabric, just like George’s clothes or his dog’s fur. So Velcro works just like the burrs, with the hook-covered side hooking onto the soft, loopy side. It stays stuck until you pull it apart with enough force to bend the hooks out of the loops.

But they don’t bend too much, so you can keep sticking and unsticking Velcro over and over! [Squeaks exclaims in excitement]. That is a really useful invention, Squeaks. It helps us to stick all sorts of things together, like your coat.

When we take ideas from nature and use them to create new things, we call it biomimicry. You might already know that “mimic” means to copy, and when a word has “bio” in it, that usually means it has something to do with living things. So when you put those two parts together in the word “biomimicry,” it means copying living things!

In this case, George bio-mimicked the burrs’ ability to stick to soft things like fabric and fur. And while George used his invention to help people stick things together, the plants use their hook-covered burrs to stick to animals like George’s dog. [Squeaks comments]. The plants do that because they have a problem: If a plant drops all of its seeds right next to it, when those seeds try to grow up into big plants, there isn’t enough space for them all.

The parent plant is using the water and the soil there, and the seeds can’t get enough to survive. So, the parent plant needs to get its seeds far away from it, so they can grow up big and strong. But plants can’t move around the way animals like us do!

Some plants solve this problem by having seeds that blow away in the wind, like dandelions. Others surround their seeds with tasty fruit that animals will want to carry away and eat, which means they’ll poop out the seeds somewhere else. But some plants use animals another way. [Squeaks guesses].

Exactly! They turn their seeds into those sticky burrs. So all they have to do is wait for an animal to get close enough, and their burrs, with all of their seeds inside, will stick to the animal’s fur.

The animal will probably move away before pulling the burrs out of their fur, spreading fresh seeds all over. What an amazing way for plants to survive and spread their seeds, and what a great idea for us to learn from plants. Now, let’s get your coat Velcroed on so we can go play, Squeaks!

Have you ever gotten burrs stuck on your clothes? What other amazing plants would you like to learn more about? Have a grown-up help you to leave a comment below, or send us an email at We’ll see you next time, here at the fort!