Information

8.3: Reading: Seed Plants - Biology


Gymnosperms

The four phyla of gymnosperms are cycads, ginkgo, gnetophytes, and conifers.

Gymnosperms have naked seeds. The seeds of angiosperms are contained within a fruit.

Gymnosperm Diversity

We will examine conifers in some detail during this lab class but will use photographs on the Internet to study the other three divisions. Click on the links below to view photographs of them.

Cycads

Cycads re cone-bearing palmlike plants found mainly in tropical and subtropical regions today. They were very numerous in the Mesozoic Era.

Gnetophytes

Welwitschia and Ephedra (information and photographs)

Conifers

Conifers are the largest group of gymnosperms. They include evergreen trees such as pine, cedar, spruce, fir, and redwood trees. Examine the leaves of pine on display.

The leaves of conifers are needle-like and are adapted for dry conditions such as hot summers or freezing winters. Needles lose water slower than broad, flat leaves and therefore do not need to be shed during seasons when water is scarce, so most conifers are evergreen.

Reproduction in Pine

Life Cycle of Seed Plants

Seed plants are heterosporous—they have two different spore sizes: megaspores and microspores.

The generalized life cycle of plants has been modified (below) to illustrate plants which have separate male and female gametophytes (megagametophyte and microgametophyte) produced by different sized spores (megaspores and microspores).

The evolutionary trend from nonvascular plants to seedless vascular plants to seed plants has been a reduction in the size of the gametophyte. In seed plants, the gametophyte is usually microscopic and is retained within the tissues of the sporophyte.

The megasporangium is surrounded by layers of sporophyte tissue called the integument. The integument and structures within (megasporangium, megaspore) are the ovule.

Microspores germinate within the sporophyte tissue and become pollen grains. The microgametophyte is contained within the tough, protective coat of the pollen grain.

The entire microgametophyte (pollen grain) is transferred to the vicinity of the megagametophyte by a process of pollination. Wind or animals usually accomplish this transfer.

When pollen reaches the female gametophyte, it produces an elongate structure (pollen tube) that grows to the egg cell. Sperm are transferred directly through this tube to the egg. The advantage of this process is that sperm do not have to swim long distances as they do in seedless plants.

Seeds

Seeds contain the sporophyte embryo, food for the embryo, and a protective coat.

The embryo within the seed is dormant; it can survive for long periods without additional food or water. When conditions become favorable, the embryo resumes growth as the seed germinates.

  1. Draw the life cycle of pine and include the following terms: eggs, embryo, fertilization, megagametophyte, megasporangium, megaspore, meiosis, microgametophyte, microsporangium, microspores, and zygote.
  2. Observe the pine pollen cones on display. Is this structure haploid or diploid?
  3. View a slide showing a section (l.s.) of a pine pollen cone. Identify the microsporangium. Identify the microgametophytes. What is another name for microgametophyte?
  4. View a pine seed cone on display. Are there any seeds within the cone?
  5. View a slide showing a longitudinal section of a pine seed cone. Identify the integument, ovule, megasporangium, and megagametophyte. Which of these structures is part of the sporophyte? Which are haploid? Which are diploid?

  6. View the pine seeds on display. From your drawing of the life cycle of pine, identify the structures that are part of the seed.

Angiosperms

Create another diagram of the life cycle of seed plants that includes the following terms: eggs, embryo, fertilization, megagametophyte, megasporangium, megaspore, meiosis, microgametophyte, microsporangium, microspores, and zygote. This diagram will be used as a reference when viewing the reproductive structures of angiosperms.

Flower Parts

  1. Obtain a monocot flower such as lily and identify the following structures: anther, filament, stamen, stigma, style, ovary, pistil, petals, sepals. State the function of each of these structures.
  2. Remove the petals, stamens and pistil.
  3. How many petals are present? How many sepals? Is lily a monocot or a eudicot? List three characteristics that can be used to distinguish between monocots and eudicots.

Within the Ovary

  1. Use a scalpel to cut a thin cross section slice from the ovary. This can be done by cutting across the ovary and then slicing a thin section next to the first cut. Use a dissecting microscope to determine the number of carpels within the ovary. Identify the ovules. Which structures on the life cycle diagram are found within the ovules?
  2. View a prepared slide of a lily mature female gametophyte. Identify the megagametophyte, Find the megagametophyte on the life cycle diagram. Try to find an egg and polar nuclei.

The photograph below shows a megaspore mother cell. It will divide by meiosis to produce megaspores.

Within the Anther

  1. Use a scalpel to cut a thin cross-section of a lily anther and view it under a dissecting microscope. Are pollen grains visible? What structures on the life cycle diagram are contained within the anther?
    Meiosis occurs within the anther to produce microspores. Microspores undergo mitosis to produce microgametophytes (pollen grains).
  2. If you were unable to get a good view of a lily anther in the dissection above, view a prepared slide of a lily anther c.s. and identify the microsporangium and pollen grains. Find where these two structures are located on your life cycle diagram.
  3. View a slide of lily pollen. identify the two nuclei.
  4. View slides of germinated pollen. Note the three nuclei within the pollen tubes. One is a tube nucleus. It directs the growth of the pollen tube. The other two are sperm.

Fruits

Angiosperms are distinguished from Gymnosperms in that the seeds are enclosed in a covering called the fruit.

Observe peas. Peas are seeds contained within a pod (fruit).

Observe the sliced tomato. It is produced from several fused carpels. Can you see the carpels? How many are there?

Observe a strawberry or a blackberry. These fruits are formed from a single flower that contained many pistals.

Observe a pineapple. This fruit is produced by the fusion of many flowers. Can you see each individual fruit?


Plants can see, hear and smell – and respond

Plants, according to Jack C Schultz, "are just very slow animals".

This is not a misunderstanding of basic biology. Schultz is a professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and has spent four decades investigating the interactions between plants and insects. He knows his stuff.

Instead, he is making a point about common perceptions of our leafy cousins, which he feels are too often dismissed as part of the furniture. Plants fight for territory, seek out food, evade predators and trap prey. They are as alive as any animal, and &ndash like animals &ndash they exhibit behaviour.

"To see this, you just need to make a fast movie of a growing plant &ndash then it will behave like an animal," enthuses Olivier Hamant, a plant scientist at the University of Lyon, France. Indeed, a time-lapse camera reveals the alien world of plant behaviour in all its glory, as anyone who has seen the famous woodland sequence from David Attenborough's Life series can attest.

These plants are moving with purpose, which means they must be aware of what is going on around them. "To respond correctly, plants also need sophisticated sensing devices tuned to varying conditions," says Schultz.

So what is plant sense? Well, if you believe Daniel Chamovitz of Tel Aviv University in Israel, it is not quite so different from our own as you might expect.

When Chamovitz set out to write his 2012 book What a Plant Knows &ndash in which he explores how plants experience the world by way of the most rigorous and up-to-date scientific research &ndash he did so with some trepidation.

"I was incredibly wary about what the response would be," he says.

A Beethoven symphony is of little consequence to a plant, but the approach of a hungry caterpillar is another story

His worry was not unfounded. The descriptions in his book of plants seeing, smelling, feeling and, indeed, knowing have echoes of The Secret Life of Plants, a popular book published in 1973 that appealed to a generation raised on flower power, but contained little in the way of facts.

The earlier book's most enduring claim, perhaps, is the thoroughly discredited idea that plants respond positively to the sound of classical music.

But the study of plant perception has come a long way since the 1970s, and in recent years there has been an uptick of research into plant senses. The motivation for this work has not been simply to demonstrate that "plants have feelings too", but instead to question why, and indeed how, a plant senses its surroundings.

Enter Heidi Appel and Rex Cocroft, colleagues of Schultz at Missouri who are searching for the truth about plant hearing.

"The main contribution of our work has been to provide a reason for why plants are affected by sound," says Appel. A Beethoven symphony is of little consequence to a plant, but the approach of a hungry caterpillar is another story.

In their experiments, Appel and Cocroft found that recordings of the munching noises produced by caterpillars caused plants to flood their leaves with chemical defences designed to ward off attackers. "We showed that plants responded to an ecologically-relevant 'sound' with an ecologically-relevant response," says Cocroft.

We have noses and ears, but what does a plant have?

Ecological relevance is key. Consuelo De Moraes of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, along with collaborators, has shown that as well as being able to hear approaching insects, some plants can either smell them, or else smell volatile signals released by neighbouring plants in response to them.

More ominously, back in 2006 she demonstrated how a parasitic plant known as the dodder vine sniffs out a potential host. The dodder vine then wriggles through the air, before coiling itself around the luckless host and extracting its nutrients.

Conceptually, there is nothing much distinguishing these plants from us. They smell or hear something and then act accordingly, just as we do.

But, of course, there is an important difference. "We don't really know how similar the mechanisms of odour perception in plants and animals are, because we don't know much about those mechanisms in plants," says De Moraes.

We have noses and ears, but what does a plant have?

The lack of obvious centres of sensory input makes it harder to understand plant senses. It is not always the case &ndash the photoreceptors that plants use to "see", for example, are fairly well-studied &ndash but it is certainly an area that merits further investigation.

For their part, Appel and Cocroft are hoping to track down the part or parts of a plant that respond to sound.

Researchers have begun to find repeating patterns that hint at deep parallels with animals

Likely candidates are mechanoreceptor proteins found in all plant cells. These convert micro-deformations of the kind that sound waves can generate as they wash over an object into electrical or chemical signals.

They are testing to see whether plants with defective mechanoreceptors can still respond to insect noise. For a plant, it seems, there may be no need for something as cumbersome as an ear.

Another ability we share with plants is proprioception: the "sixth sense" that enables (some of) us to touch type, juggle, and generally know where various bits of our body are in space.

Because this is a sense that is not intrinsically tied with one organ in animals, but rather relies on a feedback loop between mechanoreceptors in muscles and the brain, the comparison with plants is neater. While the molecular details are a little different, plants also have mechanoreceptors that detect changes in their surroundings and respond accordingly.

"The overarching idea is the same," says Hamant, who co-authored a 2016 review of proprioception research. "So far, what we know is that in plants it is more to do with microtubules [structural components of the cell], responding to stretch and mechanical deformation."

In fact, a study published in 2015 appears to show similarities that go even deeper, suggesting a role for actin &ndash a key component in muscle tissue &ndash in plant proprioception. "This is less supported," says Hamant, "but there has been some evidence that actin fibres in tissue are involved almost like muscle."

These findings are not unique. As research into plant senses has progressed, researchers have begun to find repeating patterns that hint at deep parallels with animals.

Today there are plant researchers investigating such traditionally non-plant areas as memory, learning and problem-solving

In 2014, a team at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland showed that when a caterpillar attacks an Arabidopsis plant, it triggers a wave of electrical activity. The presence of electrical signalling in plants is not a new idea &ndash physiologist John Burdon-Sanderson proposed it as a mechanism for the action of the Venus flytrap as early as 1874 &ndash but what is surprising is the role played by molecules called glutamate receptors.

Glutamate is the most important neurotransmitter in our central nervous system, and it plays exactly the same role in plants, except with one crucial difference: plants do not have nervous systems.

"Molecular biology and genomics tell us that plants and animals are composed of a surprisingly limited set of molecular 'building blocks' that are very much alike," says Fatima Cvrčková, a researcher at Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic. Electrical communication has evolved in two distinct ways, each time employing a set of building blocks that presumably pre-dates the split between animals and plants around 1.5 billion years ago.

"Evolution has led to a certain number of potential mechanisms for communication, and while you can get to that in different ways, the end point is still the same," says Chamovitz.

The realisation that such similarities exist, and that plants have a far greater ability to sense their world than appearances might suggest, has led to some remarkable claims about "plant intelligence", and even spawned a new discipline. Electrical signalling in plants was one of the key factors in the birth of "plant neurobiology" (a term used despite the lack of neurons in plants), and today there are plant researchers investigating such traditionally non-plant areas as memory, learning and problem-solving.

Despite lacking eyes, plants such as Arabidopsis possess at least 11 types of photoreceptor, compared to our measly four

This way of thinking has even led to law makers in Switzerland setting guidelines designed to protect "the dignity of plants" &ndash whatever that means.

And while many consider terms like "plant intelligence" and "plant neurobiology" to be metaphorical, they have still been met with a lot of criticism, not least from Chamovitz. "Do I think plants are smart? I think plants are complex," he says. Complexity, he says, should not be confused with intelligence.

So while it is useful to describe plants in anthropomorphic terms to communicate ideas, there are limits. The danger is that we end up viewing plants as inferior versions of animals, which completely misses the point.

"We plant scientists are happy to talk about similarities and differences between the plant and animal lifestyles when presenting results of plant research to the general public," says Cvrčková. However, she thinks reliance on animal-based metaphors to describe plants comes with issues.

"You want to avoid [such metaphors], unless you are interested in a (usually futile) debate about a carrot's ability to feel pain when you bite into it."

Plants are supremely adapted for doing exactly what they need to do. They may lack a nervous system, a brain and other features we associate with complexity, but they excel in other areas.

We are more plant-like than we would like to think

For example, despite lacking eyes, plants such as Arabidopsis possess at least 11 types of photoreceptor, compared to our measly four. This means that, in a way, their vision is more complex than ours. Plants have different priorities, and their sensory systems reflect this. As Chamovitz points out in his book: "light for a plant is much more than a signal light is food."

So while plants face many of the same challenges as animals, their sensory requirements are equally shaped by the things that distinguish them. "The rootedness of plants &ndash the fact that they are unmoving &ndash means they actually have to be much more aware of their environment than you or I do," says Chamovitz.

To full appreciate how plants perceive the world, it is important that scientists and the wider public appreciate them for what they are.

"The danger for the plant people is that if we keep comparing [plants] with animals we might miss the value of plants," says Hamant.

"I would like to see plants acknowledged more as the amazing, interesting, exotic living beings they are," agrees Cvrčková, "and less as a mere source of human nutrition and biofuels." Such an attitude will benefit everyone. Genetics, electrophysiology and the discovery of transposons are just a few examples of fields that began with research in plants, and they have all proved revolutionary for biology as a whole.

Conversely, the realisation that we have some things in common with plants might be an opportunity to accept that we are more plant-like than we would like to think, just as plants are more animal-like than we usually assume.

"Maybe we are more mechanistic than we think we are," concludes Chamovitz. For him, the similarities should alert us to plants' surprising complexity, and to the common factors that connect all life on Earth.

"Then we can start to appreciate the unity in biology."

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  1. Plant four corn seeds in each of the soil cups. Make sure they’re evenly spaced, and plant them just a half inch under the dirt.
  2. Create labels for each of the following using a sticky note, and stick to one of each soil cup:
    1. Control
    2. Tip
    3. Base
    1. Shoot cap: Cut a small 2″ x 3″ square of aluminum foil. Wrap it around the tip of a straw to create a small, closed-ended metal cap, and slide it off. This will be placed over the tip of the growing shoot to cover any light coming in to the tip.
    2. Base sleeve: Cut a small 1/2″ x 3″ square of aluminum foil. Wrap it around the middle of a straw so it creates a small open-ended 1/2″ tall tube, and slide it off. This will be placed around the growing shoot so that it can grow through it.

    If the experiment worked correctly, you should have noticed that the seedlings that were covered with caps at the tip grew straight up, while the control seedlings and the seedlings with the bases covered bent towards the light. This is phototropism in action.

    Darwin correctly concluded that plants are able to “see” light using the tips of the plant shoots, rather than through the stalks. It wasn’t until a bit later that scientists figured out exactly why that was, though.

    It turns out that plants are able to grow by using hormones such as auxins and gibberellins. Auxin in particular tells individual cells to reach out and grow longer, like Stretch Armstrong. It’s one of the ways that plants grow taller. Normally, plants growing with an unshaded light source will grow straight up towards the sun because auxin is evenly distributed all around the shoot.

    But when the light is heavily shaded and comes in from an angle, something interesting happens. Auxin starts to concentrate on the shaded side of the plant instead, and as a result, the cells on the sunny side stay the same size but the cells on the shaded side grow longer. This causes the plant to tip and grow towards the light.

    Auxin is primarily produced in the tips of the plants. This is why the plant grew straight up when you covered the tip with a cap—it couldn’t “see” the light anymore! The tips of the control seedlings and the seedlings with the bases covered could still sense the light, so they grew towards the sunlight.

    Thanks to Charles Darwin and modern science, the mystery of how plants grow towards light was finally solved.


    Nitrogen: the First Number

    The first number gives the percentage of nitrogen in the product. Nitrogen encourages foliage growth, among other benefits. A 5-10-5 fertilizer would contain 5 percent nitrogen by weight. So for every pound of fertilizer applied there is really only .05 pounds of nitrogen. In a 10-pound bag of 5-10-5 fertilizer, then, there is 0.5 pound of nitrogen. Fertilizers high in nitrogen are often used for grass or for other plants where green foliage growth is more important than flowering.


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    Fun Plants for Children

    Plants with unique characteristics, such as lamb’s ears, or any of the carnivorous plants, such as Venus flytrap, allow children to experience the variety that nature offers. Hens and chicks have a cute name. The plants are equally adorable and captivate children’s imagination.

    Try simple plants from common household items. Suspend an avocado pit in water and watch it grow roots. Cut off the top of a pineapple and put it in a shallow tray for a crazy spiky plant. Taking these familiar foods and returning them into their plant forms, is a great way to teach children about where their food comes from, and what it takes to grow the good things they eat.


    Let's Grow Plants!

    Growing real plants in the classroom allows students to get an upclose look at seed growth.

    Overview

    Students learn about seeds and how they grow.

    Quick links to lesson materials:

    Teach This Lesson

    Objectives

    • Identify what a seed does
    • List reasons why people plant seeds
    • Plant seeds
    • Graph the growth of their seeds over several days
    • Write about their experiences planting seeds

    Materials

    • Large sheet of chart or butcher paper for brainstorming words
    • Scissors
    • Markers
    • The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
    • The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss and Crockett Johnson
    • Seeds (Use any available kind. I usually use a fast growing flower seed if I do this lesson before Mother's Day.)
    • Soil
    • Styrofoam cups, one per student
    • Watering can full of water
    • Wooden tongue depressors or other flat wooden sticks, one per student
    • Newspaper (for catching the mess)
    • Spoons (for scooping soil)
    • Nonfiction books about plants (see the Plants and Trees Book List for suggestions)
    • Observation notebooks, one per student
    • Optional:KidspirationT software
    • Optional:KidPixT software
    • Optional: Computer
    • Optional: Large screen TV or projector for displaying computer screen

    Set Up

    1. You may want to call a parent volunteer to help with planting the seeds.
    2. Cut out a large paper leaf from the chart or butcher paper. Hang the leaf so it attaches to the flower paper from the previous lesson.
    3. Before planting the seeds, spread newspaper on the desk or table where students will be planting.
    4. Write each student's name on a wooden tongue depressor or flat wooden stick.
    5. Set up class time for one small group at a time to plant their seeds. The other small groups will rotate through other activities.

    Lesson Directions

    Day 1

    Step 1: Read The Tiny Seed and The Carrot Seed aloud to the class.

    Step 2: Lead the class in comparing and contrasting the two books and in discussing what a seed does.

    Note: If you use Kidspiration, record your discussion using diagrams (connect your computer to a projector for students to view). Otherwise, use a sheet of chart paper to record the discussion.

    Step 3: Throughout the discussion, have your parent volunteer add vocabulary words to the leaf-shaped paper.

    Step 4: As a class, plan how The Carrot Seed could be dramatized.

    Step 5: Divide the class into small groups.

    Group 1: Goes with the parent volunteer to plant their seeds at the station.

    1. Each student will need a styrofoam cup, a wooden tongue depressor, a marker, a spoon, and a few seeds.
    2. Use a spoon to fill the styrofoam cup about halfway with soil.
    3. Place the seeds in the center of the cup. Note: Read directions on the seed packets for best practices for planting, watering, and caring for the type of plant you are using.
    4. Cover the seeds with more soil. Leave about a half inch of space between the soil and the top of the cup.
    5. Pour a small amount of water from the watering can into the cup.
    6. Stick the tongue depressor with the student's name written on it into the student's cup for identification.

    Group 2: Acts out the story of The Carrot Seed.

    Group 3: Will be the audience for the dramatization.

    Group 4 (if needed): Reads other books about plant growth. I recommend From Seed to Dandelion, From Seed to Pumpkin, and From Acorn to Oak Tree by Jan Kottke, or From Seed to Plant and It Could Still Be a Flower by Allan Fowler. See the Plants and Trees Book List for more suggestions.

    Group 5 (if needed): Illustrates the story with paper and crayons, colored pencils, or markers.

    Step 6: Rotate the groups so every student has a chance to plant seeds.

    Step 7: Have students place their labeled seed cups in a sunny area of the classroom.

    Day 2 and Beyond

    Step 8: Over the next week or so, have students water the seeds, watch, and write their observations in their notebooks.

    Step 9: Have students write about their experiences with planting seeds.

    Optional: The students could illustrate and write about plants using a computer software program like KidPix. Print the final product (or a screen capture).

    Step 10: Bind students' stories to create a class book about plants.


    Plants are a common topic in elementary classrooms for good reason – they are an effective, inexpensive way for students to observe living organisms and life cycles firsthand. Primary students often focus on familiar plants, basic plant structures and their functions, and our use of plants as a food source. In the upper-elementary grades, students investigate germination, plant life cycles, and flowering and seed production in more detail. These students are also ready to consider the diversity of plants around the world and the adaptations that allow plants to survive in very different environments.

    Whether you’re planting flowers for a Mother’s Day gift or meeting your science curriculum’s standards, plants can help students develop their ability to observe, describe, and classify. A study of plants is also a wonderful opportunity for inquiry-based teaching and learning.

    Exploring Plants (Grades K-2)
    Students observe plant growth by watching time-lapse videos and by growing their own plants. They identify the conditions needed for seed germination and explore the role of fruit in seed dispersal.

    This lesson meets the Life Science and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Content Standards of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Draw a Story: Stepping From Pictures to Writing (Grades K-2)
    In this activity, students draw a series of pictures that tell a simple, sequential story. They read their story to others, transcribe their oral story into writing, and create an accordion book with drawings on the front side and writing on the back. Students could use this format to demonstrate understanding of plant germination, growth, flowering, and seed production. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 12.

    What Parts Are There to a Plant? (Grades K-2)
    In this lesson, students identify and sort plant parts through hands-on activities and group discussions and then work with magnifying lenses and tape measures to document their observations. The lesson uses vegetables, but teachers can customize the activity by using different plants or asking students to bring in plants to use. This lesson meets the Science as Inquiry and Life Science Content Standards of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Introducing the Venn Diagram in the Kindergarten Classroom (Grades K-2)
    This lesson uses hula hoops, real objects, and online interactives to introduce the Venn diagram as students sort, compare and contrast, and organize information. Teachers could use this lesson to introduce Venn diagrams, then create a Venn diagram as a class as students compare roots, stems, and leaves from various plants. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12.

    Growth, Development, and Reproduction (Grades K-5)
    This unit is designed to be used with Fast Plants, a type of plant that has been bred to have a very short life cycle. Fast Plants will produce harvestable seeds approximately 40 days after planting. The unit allows students to investigate germination, growth, pollination, and seed production. This unit meets the Science as Inquiry and Life Science Content Standards of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    How Does My Garden Grow? Writing in Science Field Journals (Grades K-2, modify for 3-5)
    Students record observations in a field journal. While this lesson was written around a gardening project, teachers can easily modify the lesson to fit any science investigation. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12.

    Supermarket Botany (Grades 2-5)
    In this interactive activity, students categorize common foods according to the part of the plant from which they come. Students should have background knowledge of plant structures (roots, stems, seeds, leaves, flowers, and fruit) and their functions. This activity meets the Life Science Content Standard of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Rooting out Meaning: Morpheme Match-Ups in the Primary Grades (Grades 3-5)
    Why not study root words while learning about plant parts? In this lesson, students use morphemes to deconstruct and construct words. Teachers could modify this lesson to include other prefixes, suffixes, and root words. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 3, 8.

    Living Life as a Plant (Grades 3-5)
    In this media-rich lesson, students explore how plants are well adapted to their surroundings. This lesson focuses on desert plants, but teachers could extend the lesson by discussing adaptations in other environments (rain forest, tundra). This lesson meets the Life Science and Science in Personal and Social Perspectives Content Standards of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Teaching Science Through Picture Books: A Rainforest Lesson (Grades 3-5)
    A study of the tropical rainforest is introduced through the picture book Welcome to the Green House by Jane Yolen. This science lesson, which incorporates reading, writing, and technology, is a template that can be used with other books by Jane Yolen to teach about the desert, the polar ice cap, and the Everglades. Teachers can modify this lesson to focus on plant adaptations in each environment. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 12.

    Plants and Animals, Partners in Pollination (Grades 4-5)
    In this three-lesson series, students explore the relationship between flowering plants and pollinating animals. This lesson meets the Life Science Content Standard of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Comics in the Classroom as an Introduction to Genre Study (Grades 3-5)
    In this lesson, students explore a variety of comic strips, discuss components and conventions, and create their own. Teachers could modify this lesson to have students create a comic strip showing the process of pollination and seed formation or the relationship between flowering plants and pollinating animals. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12.

    How Do Seeds Travel? (Grades K-5)
    Students observe and test seeds that travel by wind, water, and animals. Though this activity was originally written for students in grades 6-10, elementary teachers can easily modify it for use in their classrooms. This activity meets the Life Science Content Standard of the National Science Education Standards.

    To integrate literacy into this lesson, try the following:

    Draw a Story: Stepping From Pictures to Writing (Grades K-2)
    In this activity, students draw a series of pictures that tell a simple, sequential story. They “read” their story to others, transcribe their oral story into writing, and create an accordion book with drawings on the front side and writing on the back. Students could use this format to demonstrate understanding of seed dispersal. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 4, 5, 6, 12.

    Comics in the Classroom as an Introduction to Genre Study (Grades 3-5)
    In this lesson, students explore a variety of comic strips, discuss components and conventions, and create their own. Teachers could modify this lesson to have students create a comic strip showing the process of seed dispersal. This lesson meets the following NCTE/IRA Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 11, 12.

    This article was written by Jessica Fries-Gaither. For more information, see the Contributors page. Email Kimberly Lightle, Principal Investigator, with any questions about the content of this site.

    Copyright March 2009 – The Ohio State University. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0733024. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This work is licensed under an Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons license.


    Plants are one of the most precious resources we have. Life exists on Earth because of all the things plants do for us. Here are some the ways in which everyday life depends on plants:

    • All the food we consume comes from plants. From the dawn of human history until the present time, people have used more than 6,000 kinds of plant species as food.
    • The oxygen which is essential for our survival is a byproduct of photosynthesis. The water cycle on Earth is regulated by plants transpiration in plants helps the flow of water from the soil to the atmosphere.
    • Many living creatures, including humans, fish and wildlife, use plants for their shelter and habitat.
    • Plant derivatives are used in the manufacture of medicines and prescription drugs. A large number of people depend primarily on plants for their health and medical needs.
    • Plants are vital for the climate. They absorb carbon dioxide and help to keep much of it out of the atmosphere.

    As you can see, plants are crucial for the survival of life on Earth. That’s why it’s important to make sure they exist and thrive in all their diversity


    People are more supportive of conservation efforts for species with human-like characteristics

    Seeing animals as similar – or more similar – to us encourages our empathy. With conservation decisions, that’s key. Most of us feel prompted to want to protect, say, polar bears not because we run through a rational list of reasons why we need them, but because they tug on our heart-strings, says environmental psychologist Kathryn Williams of the University of Melbourne.

    An endangered ghost orchid blooms at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park in Copeland, Florida plants make up 57% of the US endangered species list (Credit: Getty)

    The challenge is magnified for plants. For example, in 2011 plants made up 57% of the federal endangered species list in the US. But they received less than 4% of federal endangered species funding.

    “Building those emotional connections with ecosystems and species and the plant as a whole is crucial for plant conservation,” Williams says.

    Building emotional connections with plants is crucial for their conservation (Credit: Getty)

    Of course, science isn’t a zero-sum game where more interest and money in one set of organisms needs to automatically result in fewer resources elsewhere. But as with any type of bias, acknowledging it is the first step to reducing it.

    Becoming less plant blind

    One key to reducing plant blindness is increasing the frequency and variety of ways we see plants. This should start early – as Schussler, who is a professor of biology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, puts it, “before students start saying they are bored with plants”. One citizen science project aiming to help with this is TreeVersity, which asks ordinary people to help classify images of plants from Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum.

    Everyday interactions with plants is the best strategy, says Schussler. She lists talking about conservation of plants in local parks and gardening.

    It is important to get children involved with plants early, such as on nature walks, like the one shown here at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew (Credit: Getty)

    Plants also could be emphasised more in art. Dawn Sanders of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, who has collaborated on environmental art projects at the Gothenburg Botanical Garden, has found that visuals and stories are important for getting students to connect with plants and to start asking questions about plants’ experiences, such as how old plants get.

    Sanders’ work also points to cultural variations. “Plant blindness is not applicable to all people in the same way,” she says. Compared to the initial research on US students, she says, “we have found our Swedish students connect with plants through memory, emotion and beauty, particularly around things like midsummer and the first days of spring”. For instance, vitsippa (wood anemone) is valued as a herald of spring.

    In India, the human-plant link may be more about religion and medicine. Geetanjali Sachdev researches botanical art and education at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. “Their value is certainly experienced at a visceral level,” she says of plants. “We can’t escape it because plants are so intertwined in so many aspects of Indian cultural life.”

    Geetanjali Sachdev has noticed plant motifs everywhere in Indian cities (Credit: Geetanjali Sachdev)

    In fact, Sachdev has been documenting the ubiquity of plant motifs around Indian cities: from lotus flowers painted on water tankers to botanical kolam (powder) drawings on the ground.

    These images extend beyond flowers, which so often dominate memorable encounters with plants in Western countries. “From mythological perspectives, trees, leaves and flowers would all be significant, but from medicinal perspectives in Ayurveda (an Indian form of traditional medicine), many other parts of the plants have value – leaves, roots, flowers and seeds,” she says.

    So, plant blindness is neither universal nor inevitable. “Although our human brains may be wired for plant blindness, we can overcome it with greater awareness,” Schussler says.

    A mural in India’s first designated public art district, the Lodhi Colony of New Delhi, uses plant motifs (Credit: Getty)

    Williams is also optimistic about increasing empathy for plants. “It’s not at all implausible,” she says. “It’s about imagination.” Even fictional plant characters are turning up. Two from the comics world are McPedro, the Scottish-Irish cactus from the web comic Girls with Slingshots, and Marvel’s superhero tree Groot, who has sparked some quirky biology discussions.

    The world’s food supply is facing more challenges than ever, due to a combination of population growth, water scarcity, reduced agricultural land, and climate change. Through research on biofuels, plants are also important as a potential source of renewable energy. That means it’s critical to be able to detect, learn from, and innovate with our green friends. Our future depends on it.


    Watch the video: What Is Seed Germination? SEED GERMINATION. Plant Germination. Dr Binocs Show. Peekaboo Kidz (January 2022).