Weekend Science Fun: Winter Botany

Winter is not always the best season for botany lessons outdoors, but there are still plenty of fun things to explore indoors when it comes to plants.

Today we are going to investigate how plants survive harsh periods when they can’t grow, such as periods of cold weather or drought.


  • Storage roots:  carrots, preferrably natural with tops (not baby carrots)
  • Bulbs: like onions
  • Seeds:  dried bean seeds would work well, as well as packets of carrot and onion seeds
  • Perennial fruit:  such as blackberries

Or at least gather some pictures.

Look out the window on a winter day. Where are all the plants?

Plants have different life cycles. Some plants are annuals, meaning they complete their life cycle in one growing season. At the end of the season the plants release seeds that fall to the ground. Take a look at the seeds and examine the outer layers, called seed coats.

The seed coat keeps out decay organisms and helps the seeds survive until conditions are right for growth.

A few of our common edible plants are biennials. Plants like carrots and onions require two growing seasons to complete their life cycles. In the first growing season they store up food in the root or bulb. The root remains protected underground over winter. The second year the plants utilize that food to grow flowers and produce seeds. (Show the roots, bulbs and seeds).

Try planting a carrot root or onion bulb. What do you think will happen? (Note:  to save food, simply plant the carrot top and the bottom, white part of a green onion.) See if you can grow the plants until they flower and produce seeds.

Other plants are perennials, which live for three or more years. Of these, some survive the winter as storage structures like bulbs, rhizomes or corms. Daffodils are bulbs, crocuses are corms and irises are rhizomes.  Bushes and trees have woody stems that survive above the ground as well as roots underground. Strawberries, blackberries, grapes and peaches all come from perennial plants.

If you get a chance, go on a walk and look for plant seeds, storage roots and other overwintering plant structures under the leaves and snow.

For a free gardening poster that covers the basics of a plant cycle, go to Welch’s Harvest Grants for school gardens at Scholastic. If you click on the Parents’ side– look at the right hand sidebar for a “How Does Your Garden Grow” poster in .pdf format, as well as a garden activity sheet (a maze and seed marker template.) Note:  if you use the poster, you might want to mention the bean seed is found within the green bean fruit and show an example. It also is on the Teacher’s side.

For more plant activities, try Kitchen Scrap Gardening activities at GrowingWithScience.

(which reminds me, I should really start working on that again :-))

Let me know what you find out!


  1. Sandra Foyt

    After shooting this shot of a snow covered sedum, I wouldn’t have thought of Winter Botany. Thanks for showing me how wrong I was!


  2. Roberta

    Oh, what a “cool” shot. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Shirley Duke

    I love that you have such great pictures with your blog. This was good information about seeds and a perfect winter topic. Loved the beans!

  4. Roberta

    Thanks Shirley. I think being able to add photographs one reason I love blogging. It is so easy to incorporate visual elements.

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