November can be one of those months where you’re never quite sure what’s happening – is it autumn; is it winter; does it even matter?

At the start of the month, the trees might be full of colour, yet by the end they may be virtually devoid of leaves altogether.

Whatever the state of the foliage and weather, something to look out for this month is the wide variety of fruits and seeds produced by plants.

It’s also interesting to consider how these various seed are spread around the countryside (well, I think it’s interesting).

Seed dispersal is a very important process for plants. If the seeds simply fall to the ground then the young plant will be in direct competition with its parent for space, sunlight and other resources.

Some plants have adapted to this, but others have evolved mechanisms for carrying the seeds well away from their origin.

Berries achieve this by being attractive food for various animals. Once eaten, the indigestible seed passes through the animal and is deposited in its droppings.

Many seeds are dispersed by wind, the classic examples being those of dandelions and their relatives.

A specialised type of wind-borne seed is the samara. This is a type of fruit in which a hard, fibrous wing develops around the seed, which allows it to glide to the ground whilst travelling some distance in the process.

Take a look on the ground near a sycamore tree this month and you’ll certainly see samaras – these are the familiar ‘helicopters’ which, when thrown into the air, spin gracefully to the ground.

Other tree species produce similar seeds, including ash and elm – although in the latter case, the samaras develop in the spring rather than the autumn.

Another approach to dispersal is for the seeds to hitch a ride on a passing animal. Many plants adopt this method by producing burs – seeds that carry hooks or spines that can catch on fur (or clothes).

We’re all familiar with cleavers, although we may call it goosegrass, sticky willy or even Galium aparine if we’re feeling scientific.

Owners of long-haired dogs will also have spent hours of fun removing greater burdock seeds from their pet’s coats. Incidentally, burdock was reputedly the source of inspiration for Velcro.

Several members of the rose family produce burs, including wood avens – a common wildflower of East Lothian’s woodlands.

Once the yellow flowers die back in late summer/autumn they are replaced by a tight cluster of seeds, each having its own hooked, hair-like attachment.

These burs are a very effective technique for spreading seeds around, which can have unfortunate consequences.

Pirri-pirri-bur is another member of the rose family which originates in Australia and New Zealand, but has been introduced into the UK.

Its ability to spread more prolifically than many native species has created major conservation concerns in several areas – most notably Holy Island in Northumberland.

Worryingly, it’s now established in several of East Lothian’s coastal sites and attempts to eradicate it are likely to be a priority for some time to come.