Celebrating Wildflowers and Miss Lady Bird Johnson

We are pleased to be hosting STEM Friday this week, a celebration of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books for children. The theme for today is wildflowers, so be sure to click through the link and check it out. (This post contains affiliate links to Amazon).

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We are fast approaching the the centennial of Lady Bird Johnson’s birth, December 22, 2012, and it seemed like a perfect time to pull out Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers: How a First Lady Changed America
by Kathi Appelt and illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein. This is a beautiful picture book biography that overflows with the beautiful wildflowers that Lady Bird Johnson enjoyed so much. (For a full review of the book, see our sister blog, Wrapped in Foil.)

You may wonder how a picture book about a former first lady who loved wildflowers could be used as a jumping off point for STEM. Here are just a few ideas:

Science:

– use the website and the guide in the backmatter of the book to identify all the lovely wildflowers in the illustrations

  • Seed dispersal
  • Ecology issues, such as how introduced and invasive plants change an area
  • Food webs
  • Weather and climate, and how that effects plants

Technology:

  • Use a computer program to design a wildflower garden
  • Construct two weather stations and compare the weather in a wildflower garden versus a parking lot

Engineering:

Wildflower seeds come in many different sizes and shapes. Investigate how wildflower seeds are planted, harvested, processed or threshed, and packaged for sale. Can you think of a machine to do this in a better way?

Math:

Investigating wildflowers can be a wonderful way to promote all aspects of STEM.

Lupine life cycle

Let’s take a look at the life cycle of one of Lady Bird Johnson’s favorite flowers, the bluebonnet or lupine. Her favorite was Lupinus texensis, the Texas bluebonnet. We are showing the arroyo lupine, Lupinus succulentus, which is a similar plant.

Lupine seeds

sprout into seedlings. The first two smooth oval “leaves” are actually the cotyledons.

Soon the regular leaves emerge and the plants begin to grow.

In a few short months the lupines begin to flower.

Honey bees and other pollinators pollinate the flowers. When the flower has been pollinated, the white part turns red.

Now the petals fall off and the seed pods begin to form. You can see the dark green seeds forming inside.

When they are mature, the pods turn brown. Do you see the ones towards the bottom of the photograph that are twisted? The pods burst open when they are mature and send the seeds shooting through the air. Hopefully, the seeds will land in a good location and grow into new lupines the following year.

Plant some wildflowers so you can follow your own plant life cycles. In the Sonoran Desert the time to plant wildflowers flowers for a spring bloom is right now (November).

Related activities/information:

Be sure to check either Kathi Appelt‘s (click on the icon next to the “brand new” image) or Joy Fisher Hein‘s websites for a beautiful and fun activity kit (in .pdf) to download that accompanies the book. The kit includes a word search, card matching game and many ideas for hands-on learning.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Free .pdf curricula to download at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (Four curricula for grades pre-k through 6)
Hands-on activities at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Miss Lady Bird’s Wildflowers is a beautiful book about an inspiring lady. Hopefully, it will encourage some young scientists and engineers, as well.

Reading level: Ages 4 and up
Hardcover: 40 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins; 1st edition (February 15, 2005)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0060011076
ISBN-13: 978-0060011079

Book was provided for review purposes.


Come visit the STEM Friday blog each week to find more great Science, Technology, Engineering and Math books.

2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Emerson

    I live in The Highlands of Scotland in the UK on the outskirts of Inverness. We have a pleasant garden in which we have planted many small trees for blossom, Autumn colour and fruit over the fifteen years we have lived here. There are tall deciduous and coniferous trees around us and we live near a pine forest.
    As well as trees we grow as many perennial and annual flowers that we can fit in to encourage insects as well as growing basic vegetables such as brassicas and roots and, under glass in a cold greenhouse, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes. We also grow many herbs which we enjoy in cooking but particularly for leaving to flower for the local bees and hover-flies. The soil is tending to be acid in some areas of the garden.

    That’s the description of the sort of mixed garden we have. One plant which baffles us is one of the perennials (our lupins). They grow from naturally dropped seed but in order to get a mix of colours we plant seed from packets every other year and in the first year we get a mix of lovely vibrant pinks, reds, yellows and deep purple in addition to the mauve but after a year or so those colours disappear and we only have blue and white plants. They come back beautifully year after year, the actual roots growing and spreading but only producing the blue colours.

    Is it to do with the acidity of the soil? I notice that at this time of year the main road south from here (the A9 road) has areas of lupins growing “wild” at the side of the road and there is a good mix of pure blues and pure deep pink flowers. These must have grown by natural dispersal of seed in the same soil year after year. Is there any reason why this could happen when just up the road in our garden we can’t get our’s to do the same? We have even saved seed each year from pink/red ones and although their “babies” are sometimes mixed I’m sure it’s because they are living right next to loads of blues which are pollinated by the bees.

    If you have time I’d love an explanation please.

  2. Roberta

    It has a lot to do with genetics. In lupines, the blue (wild) type is dominant. That means all the flowers will likely be blue after crossing in the first generation. In subsequent generations the recessives may reappear, but sounds like you are not seeing them with a great frequency.

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