Long-distance seed dispersal influences many key aspects of the biology of plants, including spread of invasive species, metapopulation dynamics, and diversity and dynamics in plant communities. However, because long-distance seed dispersal is inherently hard to measure, there are few data sets that characterize the tails of seed dispersal curves. This paper is structured around two lines of argument. First, we argue that long-distance seed dispersal is of critical importance and, hence, that we must collect better data from the tails of seed dispersal curves. To make the case for the importance of long-distance seed dispersal, we review existing data and models of long-distance seed dispersal, focusing on situations in which seeds that travel long distances have a critical impact (colonization of islands, Holocene migrations, response to global change, metapopulation biology). Second, we argue that genetic methods provide a broadly applicable way to monitor long-distance seed dispersal; to place this argument in context, we review genetic estimates of plant migration rates. At present, several promising genetic approaches for estimating long-distance seed dispersal are under active development, including assignment methods, likelihood methods, genealogical methods, and genealogical/demographic methods. We close the paper by discussing important but as yet largely unexplored areas for future research.