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Last time our seeds were from a plant from Africa, the natal plum. This week our mystery seeds are from an Australian native:  the blue hibiscus, Alyogyne huegelii.

blue-hibiscus-shrubBlue hibiscus is a large, perennial evergreen shrub that can definitely turn heads when it is flowering.

blue-hibicus-in-landscape

Here is Arizona it adds some bright contrast to the spring pageant of wildflowers.

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The leaves are delicate, deeply lobed and covered with fine hairs.

blue hibiscus flowersAlthough called blue hibiscus, the flowers actually range in color from pink to deep purple.

blue-hibiscus-close-up

nice-blue-hibiscus-side

What more can you say?

Blue hibiscus is easy to grow and drought tolerant. The only problem is that it can be very sensitive to some of the soil-borne fungal diseases (common in Arizona), such as Texas root rot.

Have you ever grown blue hibiscus?

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It is not surprising that no one recognized our mystery seeds from last week, because they came from a plant that isn't known for its seeds:  the pineapple, Ananas comosus.

seeds-in-pineapple-far

I was more than a bit surprised when I cut into a pineapple from the grocery store and there were seeds!

seed-in-pineapple

With a little research, it turns out that according to this article at Purdue, pineapples can produce seeds. They are used in breeding of new varieties and generally result from hand pollination. The seeds are apparently hard to germinate, which is why the commercial plants are usually propagated vegetatively.

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Probably you have seen instructions for starting new pineapple plants from the tops of pineapple fruit. Our family cut off the fruit part and suspended the top in water (as shown here).

pineapple-plant-1

Pineapples are a type of bromeliad that grows naturally in tropical conditions. They don't really enjoy our dry climate in Arizona.

pineapple-sprouting

Still, maybe someday it will flower and produce fruit.

If you are curious what the flowers look like and how pineapples are grown, the video from Dole pineapple shows more.

Have you ever found seeds in a pineapple? Have you ever grown one from a top?

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Monday starts out with a bang with a blog tour and giveaway (see below) for the exciting new picture book, Weeds Find a Way by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher.

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Do your children always want to grab fiction picture books? Weeds Find a Way is a perfect example of the kind of nonfiction that will entice them to give it a try. Jenson-Elliott's lyrical text paints vibrant, whimsical word pictures. For example, she says the bitter sap of a certain weed "...could turn a tongue inside out." Can't you visualize a plant bug with its beak puckered up?  As a perfect complement, Fisher's mixed media and digital collage illustrations are intriguing and playful.

You can get a feel for the book in this trailer:

The back matter includes a serious discussion of weeds, including why they are interesting and important. There is also a list and descriptions of some common weeds, from dandelions to wild oats.

Weeds Find a Way gently introduces young readers to the wonders of the natural world by exploring these tough, adaptable plants. Pick up a copy and you will find out, as the author says, "Weeds are amazing!"

 

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Giveaway:

Edit: Would like to try to win a copy of Weeds Find a Way? Simply leave a comment on this blog post with a valid e-mail address (U.S. mailing addresses only) by March 8, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. A winner will be selected at random from the comments. The giveaway is now closed.

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Related Activities to Learn More About Weeds:

1. Cindy Jenson-Elliott has a free curriculum guide to download at her website (currently you download it by clicking on the book cover image). As she correctly points out, weeds can make good subjects to study because they are common and easy to find. She includes art ideas such as doing a botanical drawing, math and science activities (including plant adaptations) and even a weed poetry lesson.

2. Botany - Getting to know your local weeds.

For adults:

Why figure out what kinds of weeds you have?

I'm sure you all have heard of stories of people who have pulled out "weeds," only to discover they were the seedlings of plants they were intending to grow. About.com has an enlightening essay about the hows and whys of garden weed identification. As the author rightly points out, an accurate identification is the key to proper action. Spend some time getting to know your local weeds and you might also find they have something to offer.

For example:

dandelion-flower

What use is the common dandelion, which grows virtually everywhere? You may have heard, or even tried them yourself, that you can eat the young green leaves in the spring. How about dandelion tea? They also are an important source of nectar and pollen for honey bees because they are some of the latest plants to bloom in the fall and some of the earliest in the spring.

dandelion-seed

Children love to help disperse the seeds by blowing on them.

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(Public domain photograph by Petr Kratochvil )

Besides, what is more beautiful than a sea of golden yellow flowers to run in?

Where to get help with weed identification?

A useful resource is your local Cooperative Extension office. They are like to have fact sheets about local weeds and Master Gardener volunteers to help.

Online resources, such as this key to weeds from the University of Minnesota Extension, can be helpful, too.

Your local library or bookstore carry books on weed identification, such as Weeds of the Northeast (Comstock books) by Richard H. Uva, Joseph C. Neal, and Joseph M. DiTomaso.

For children:

Weeds have many special ways to help them survive. Let's take a "walk" and see what we can find out.

a. If you were a deer, which would you rather eat:  one of these plants or a lettuce leaf?

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Many weeds have prickles, thorns or spines to keep from being eaten by animals.  They also may contain chemicals that make them taste bad or might even be poisonous.

Do you know what this plant is? It is a teasel.

b. Look at this "flower" closely. Can you see that it actually is made up of many, many tiny flowers. How might that help a weed survive?

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Each of the tiny flowers has the capability of becoming a seed. Weeds, such as this Queen Anne's lace (wild carrot), can make up to 350 seeds in one flower head!

c. Besides being too spiky to eat, how might the hooks on this plant help it?

budrock-burThe hooks on the burdock catch in an animal's fur or on your socks. If you don't notice, you carry the bur with its seeds inside to a new place. When you do take it off and throw it away, it might just be in a great new place to grow. Weeds have many tricky ways like this to spread their seeds.

d. Plants in the mustard genus (Brassica) are really good at racing. Any ideas why that might help them survive?

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Mustards can germinate, grow and produce seeds very quickly. That means they can complete a life cycle in a short time compared to other plants.

Experiment idea:  Plant a known number of radish (which is a mustard relative) seeds and carrot seeds in containers under the same conditions. Record when you see the first radish sprouts and when you see the first carrots. Who won the race?

e. These heart-shaped seeds are extra hard and tough. How might that help the weed survive?

3-velvet-leaf-seeds

Velvet leaf seeds are so hard that they can stay alive in the soil up to 60 years. Many plants seeds stay viable (able to sprout) for only a few years.

Why don't you go on a real walk and see if you can spot other weedy secrets. Then read a great book like Weeds Find a Way to learn more.

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Weeds Find a Way

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: Beach Lane Books (February 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1442412607
ISBN-13: 978-1442412606

Be sure to visit the upcoming stops on the Weeds Find a Way? blog tour:
Tues, Feb 25 - As They Grow Up
Wed, Feb 26 - Kid Lit Frenzy
Thurs, Feb 27 - Sharpread
Fri, Feb 28 - Children's Book Review
Mon, Mar 3 - Let's Go Chipper!
Tues, Mar 4 - Just a Little Creativity
Wed, Mar 5 - Unleashing Readers
Thurs, Mar 6 - 5 Minutes for Books
Fri, Mar 7- Archimedes Notebook

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Interested in gardening? Have resources to share? Join us for Children's Garden Week this week.

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Disclosures: This book was provided for review purposes via Blue Slip Media. I am an affiliate with Amazon so I can provide you with cover images and links to more information about books and products. As you probably are aware, if you click through the highlighted title link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at not extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

If you are interested in children's nonfiction, you might want to visit the Nonfiction Monday blog and see what other new books bloggers have found.

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