Plant Science

Tuesdays are traditionally plant science days here at Growing with Science and New Year's is a great time to make plans for the upcoming year. Let's resolve to add more plants to our world in 2016. Here are some child-friendly ways to celebrate plants.

How to Add More Plants to Your World

  1. Plant some herbs in a container, windowsill, or garden.

Herbs are hardy and easy to propagate. Many herbs start readily by taking a stem cutting and putting it into a container of water. Once roots appear, plant in a pot and put in a sunny window.

mint-sprouting-closerYour rooting container doesn't have to be fancy. This is a plastic water bottle cut in half.

thyme and mint_0028

You can also move herbs outside into pots or gardens once the weather warms.

Growing herbs can have many benefits. Use fresh herbs in cooking to improve flavor. Let herbs go to flower and they will supply nectar to butterflies and other pollinating insects.

2. Grow and pot a houseplant for someone.

Many houseplants also can be grown from cuttings, such as pothos, spider plants, jade plants, etc.

pothos-cutting

Start some cuttings, pot them up, and give them as a gift to someone.

Plants can remind people of someone special for years to come. For example, this pothos cutting was from a plant originally given to my son by his fifth grade teacher many years ago. We remember him fondly when we tend to the plant.

3. Plant a vegetable garden.

Gardening with children is a wonderful experience because there are so many benefits.

garden-0014

Not only do children learn about soil, weather, water, plants, and animals,

cluster-of-tomatoesbut they also are often more likely to try and eat different types of fresh vegetables if they grow the vegetables themselves.

Now is a great time to start planning for spring.

4. Get involved in a school or community garden.

No place for a garden of your own? Not an experienced gardener? Look around for opportunities to participate in a school or community garden.

hershey-community-gardenSchool and community gardens are places to share ideas about gardening, and as well as help others.

5. Plant a hollyhock or sunflower "forest."

We are often conservative when it comes to planting flowers and stick to low-growing varieties. Go wild this year and plant large blocks of big plants.

sunflower-plantChildren love to make forts, huts or other play spaces among the towering plants.

sunlit-sunflower-0144Sunflowers supply nectar for a variety of pollinators. If you let them go to seed, they can supply food for people and birds, as well.

hollyhock4Hollyhocks are incredibly hardy and require relatively little water for their size. They are biennials, however, so you will need to wait for them to reach full size.

pretty-yellow-pink-hollyhock-sunny058Hollyhocks also supply nectar, pollen and seeds for wildlife.

6. Plant a pollinator or butterfly garden.

Gardening for pollinators is a fun way to learn both about local plants and the importance of pollinators.

bee with pollenThe best way to encourage pollinators is to choose plants that naturally occur where you live.

bright-California-poppies-front-yardNative plants are easier to grow, too.

Check out these related posts:

7. Plant a tree

Trees supply some many things, from shade to wood. Consider adding trees to plans for planting this year.

fall-color-trees

See a related post about trees useful for butterfly gardens (scroll down past books)

Links:

How are you going to add plants to your world this year? Leave us a comment and let us know.

Rather than having a lesson today, I thought we'd have a short intermission and take a look at a book (written at the adult level) about seeds that came out recently . Seeing Seeds: A Journey into the World of Seedheads, Pods, and Fruit by Teri Dunn Chace and Robert Llewellyn could be used as a coffee table book due to the superb illustrations, but the informative text makes it something much more.

The first thing you will notice about this book are the illustrations. Robert Llewellyn uses a relatively new technique called "image stacking," which involves take multiple images at different levels and then melding them together using computer software to create a crisply-focused, almost three dimensional image. When you first pick up the book, you will be mesmerized by these images, which grace every page (Timber Press shows previews on its website.)

What is even more thrilling about this book, however, was the quality botanical information. For example, the spread on spider flower reveals that what look like seed pods are actually called "siliques." Because members of the Brassicaceae have similar structures, the plants were originally assigned to that family. Looking a DNA, however, botanists have now moved these plants to their own family, the Cleomaceae. Fascinating!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know we've been featuring mystery seeds and Seed of the Week for several years. Seeing Seeds is a wonderful resource to expand and continue studies on seeds and seed pods.

Have you seen this book? What did you think?

Hardcover: 284 pages
Publisher: Timber Press (August 26, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1604694920
ISBN-13: 978-1604694925

Disclosure: This book is my own copy. 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 or image link and purchase a product, I will receive a very small commission, at no extra cost to you. Any proceeds help defray the costs of hosting and maintaining this website.

Let's find out about about some more of the common plant families. This time we'll focus on trees.

  1. Maple trees - family Aceraceae

Maples have palmate leaves, which means the main leaf veins radiate out from a single point and they roughly resemble a hand.  Most maples are deciduous. The fruit are samaras (maple keys) with two fruit in a cluster.

silver-mapleLeaves of a silver maple.

red-maple-leaves10Some species of maples are known for their brilliant fall colors.

red-maple-keys-461Red maple samara or "keys"

2. Oak or beech trees -  family Fagaceae

Oaks are generally large, spreading trees. The fruit is an acorn for oaks and nuts for beeches. The leaves are often longer than they are wide and have lobes along the margins.

oak-leaves-166oak-leaves-872acorn-0225An acorn

3.  Ginkgo - family Ginkgoaceae

These unusual trees are gymnosperms. There is only one species in the family. The leaves are fan shaped with a wavy edge. The naked seed is within a fleshy covering that resembles a fruit.

gingko-leaves-close-barkgingko-leaves

4.  Mulberry, fig and osage orange - family Moraceae

Mulberry leaves can be highly variable in shape even within one tree, but most have some sort of lobes. Some have an asymmetrical lobe and resemble a mitten. The leaves of trees in this family have a milky sap. The mulberry fruit are formed in clusters.

mulberry-leavestexas-mulberryThese are the leaves of the Texas mulberry.

mulberry-fruit-0234Mulberry fruit

figs-on-tree-2Figs

5. Olive - family  Oleaceae

Olives have simple leaves. The fruit is fleshy with a pit inside.

olives-fruit-greenolive_0416

6. Pines, spruces and furs - family Pinaceae

Members of this family are also gymnosperms. The leaves are in the form of needles and most are evergreen. Usually the seeds are borne in cones.

pine-branchwhite-pine-0083Eastern white pine

white-pine-0453White pine cone

spruce-cones-409Spruce

hemlock-0530Hemlocks

7. Willow - family Salicaceae

Willows have narrow, simple leaves. They are deciduous. Fruits form in a capsule with many small, tufted seeds.

willows-398tree-books-buttonWant to learn more? Visit our giant list of children's books about trees!

 


leaf-border

Plant-Science-Lessons

To see our complete plant science lessons, either visit the plant science category (newest posts to oldest posts) or the plant science section of our experiment archive page (links to posts in order).

Looking for books about plants for children? Be sure to visit our growing list of gardening and plant science books for kids, as well as our list of children’s books about seeds.

For more activities, try our Gardening/Plant Science for Kids Pinterest board.